DJ Raymondo

When UK Garage all kicked off I was still a kid, but I got into dance music at an early age thanks to having young parents and two young uncles who had started to go out clubbing. I got into the music they were listening too and also listening to Kiss FM when I used to work for my family on a Saturday, but that was when Kiss used play proper dance music during the day.

The first UK Garage tune I purchased was St Germain's track "Alabama Blues" in 1996, and the sole reason for this was for the Todd Edwards remix that Kiss had been hammering all summer long.

1996 would also be the year I that I would get my first set of decks. They were dual CD players made by IMG Stageline, they kept breaking and having to go back to be repaired, but I loved them and they got me my first proper paying gig the following year, my school's Sixth Form Christmas social.

The summer of 97 I would leave school and would be the first time I would go to my local nightclub DeJa Vu in Swanley, Kent. Not the best nightclub in the world by any means, but I would hear UKG classics "Ripgroove" by Double 99 and "Let's Groove" by George Morel for the first time there.

The release of Tina Moore single "Never Gonna Let You Go" and Tuff Jam"s Underground Frequencies Vol 1 compilation (which luckily came with two unmixed CDs if you managed to get the limited edition, happy days!) in the summer of 97 really cemented my love for UK Garage.

It wasn't until 1998 though that I could really start to build my record collection. I left Sixth Form, got a job, passed my driving test and spent all my wages on buying records and going out clubbing, but I did manage to buy my first turntable, a Gemini PT-2000.

Working in London I was now able to start venturing to the record shops in town, mainly in the West End. My favourite shop's were Uptown Records and Release The Groove, but I always felt a bit unwelcome at the shops in the West End. They were a bit clicky, it was like walking into a country pub and all the locals staring at you and thinking what are you doing in our town.

Then from one of my uncle's told me about City Sounds in Holborn, where he used to buy soul and jazz funk records from in the early 80s. The difference between Dave and his team at City Sounds and the shops in the West End was night and day, the staff were so friendly and the sound system in the shop was awesome.

That was one of the main buzzes about DJing back then was going to the record shops and finding brand new tunes, mainly white labels and then hearing them blow up in a couple of months and hit the national charts, then thinking to yourself I've had that tune for months.

1998 would also be the year that I finally got to see one of the pioneer's of UK Garage play at my local club Zen in Dartford (now called Air & Breathe). I was already a Tuff Jam fan from their compilations and hearing them on Kiss FM, but getting to see Karl "Tuff Enuff" Brown smash it at my local club was awesome, and back then the club had a pukka sound system, which made it even better.

In 99 Zen would start their H&G event on a Friday night, where all the big UKG DJs would guest alongside the resident DJs Jonesey, DJ Lush and MC Rookie, who would feature on the G4orce remix of Ushers track "U-Turn".

The H&G night used to be a roadblock event and you had be in the queue before the club had even opened, if not it was highly unlikely you weren't going to get in that night. One thing I did find strange though is that normally just before the guest DJ came on the resident would be banging out Trance music and then all of a sudden you would hear EZ drop his intro song.

In the summer of 2000 I would head out to Ayia Napa for two weeks with one of my best mate's for our first lads holiday and Ayia Napa definitely lived up to the hype. Getting to see the major players of UKG play every night, causing drunken havoc while trying to attract the attention of the fairer sex and then getting to recover around a pool with the sun on you back all day was my idea of heaven back then.

Ayia Napa was full to the rafters, but it wasn't just the clubs that were full, all the bars were too. We used to frequent Minos in the main square, they used to bang out UK Garage tunes all night and even though the bar was packed the excellent staff behind the jump made sure you didn't have to wait for liquid refreshments.

The square was a sea of people by 11:30pm, most revellers didn't head out till 11pm, but we were already on our way by then, probably slurring our words and being a nuisance to other holiday makers (no wonder we didn't have much joy with the ladies).

One of the highlights of the holiday was getting to see Streetboy from Kiss FM play a more underground UKG set than what the rest of the big named DJs were playing, and one of the tune's in his set was "Body Groove" by the Architechs, this would be the first time I would hear the now UKG classic.

The crowd that night had a great vibe and seemed to be more in the know about the music. It wasn't completely rammed either, so there was plenty of room to cause unspecified carnage. I remember having a good crack with a group of girls from Essex and getting to have a quick chat with Streetboy after his set, who was a very nice chap indeed. I think my mate pulled that night as well so it was a good night had by all.

When I got back from Ayia Napa because it didn't cost you an arm and leg to get into the clubs and get drunk, I had enough money to go and buy myself a pair of Technics 1210s and a deposit for next year's holiday to Ayia Napa.

While in Ayia Napa that year though I started to sense that the UKG sound was starting to change, and was going darker. The two stand out tracks for me were DJ Zinc's "138 Trek" and the Timo Maas remix of "Dooms Night" by Azzido Da Bass. It seemed the tracks were losing their musicality and soul, the whole reason I feel in love with UKG in the first place. From then I was still mainly buying UK Garage records, but I started to buy a lot more Funky and Soulful House tunes too.

By the end of 2000 and start of 2001 for me the scene had gone completely dark and the MCs had taken over and had become more important than the DJs and producers. I think UKG became too commercial as well and everyman and his dog were jumping on the bandwagon.

I was still a regular at Zen's H&G night as well and you could sense the change in crowd there too, fellas were dressed in Armani jeans, Gucci loafers with no socks and a Hackett polo shirt with the collar up and would chat along to the lyrics thinking they were a gangster MC from the streets or they just wanted to have a fight with you. The majority of crowd weren't proper Garage heads either they just thought it was cool to be seen at a UKG night, and to top it off I remember Masterstepz playing Destiny's Child "Independent Woman" at the end of his set one night. (Seriously! But in his defence the darling he had in the DJ booth with him, I think if she would of asked me to play "Barbie Girl" I would have.)

The summer of 2001 me and my mates would head off to Ayia Napa for 2 weeks of fun in the sun, and we not disappointed, it was the best boys holiday we've had. What was disappointing though was that most of bars and clubs were mainly playing R&B, but we did get see DJ EZ smash at the Gas Club and Karl "Tuff Enuff" Brown did the same at Ministry of Sound's night at the Castle Club. I even got a photo with Mr Brown before his set, but when I tried to return the favour for my friend and where I was so drunk, instead of a nice holiday snap of my mate and his favourite DJ, he ended up with just a photo of my fingers where I had covered the lens with my hand. (He still hasn't let me forget about that one even till this day, and so he shouldn't.)

After the summer of 2001 the scene just fizzled to me, the amount of quality tracks being produced left me with very little choice of records to buy and the atmosphere at the clubs being no fun I moved on to Funky and Soulful House.

The last time I attended a big UK Garage night was in 2003, it was the 4by4 event at Time & Envy in Romford which had my dream UKG DJ line up with DJ EZ inviting Tuff Jam and Todd Edwards to play, hopefully it won't be my last UK Garage event I attend but if it is what a night it was.

I am very thankful that I got to grow into adolescence with UK Garage as my soundtrack, it is scene that I believe will ever be replicated and the reason I started this website is to share the great UK Garage music that has been produced over the years and that hold so many found memories to me.