Interview: Needwant bossman Sean Brosnan on the birth of UK Garage


Here at Plain & Simple we’ve decided to embark on a new feature series, which involves asking some serious players from various dance scenes to expound on a specific subject. For the first instalment Britain’s capital is our focal point, as one of the city’s foremost purveyors of a truly homegrown sound discusses the names that inspired him way back when. 

Needwant bossman Sean Brosnan on the birth of UK Garage

I was lucky enough to sneak into some clubs on the south coast when Garage was the soundtrack. It was one of those interesting periods musically because the US sound of Garage was merging with a new UK sound and you were getting big soulful vocals and then big basslines, all sped up to fuel the hyped UK dancefloor. It was the time that really shaped me musically and it’s the background to our recent TRAXX compilation, where the sound has emerged again some 15 – 20 years later. Here I’ve picked out a few of the key London players at that time, be they the labels or producers that shaped the original scene.



Nice N Ripe / 24 Hour Experience – Together

I’ve started with a Nice n Ripe release as,  for me, it was one of if the most influential House labels ever. This track from 24 Hour Experience (which I think is produced by Grant Nelson) was such a simple but effective DJ tool and it still sounds great today. It’s the UK take on a New York sound and the start of UK Garage as it became known. It’s all a bit faster, a little more skippy and sounded completely fresh at the time. I’m not sure how many vinyl units they sold of this but I’m guessing a hell of a lot as it’s such an iconic EP.

They also released this bomb, Industry Standard, which is the definition of an infectious bass line. I love the record as there is no info on it at all- originally it was a bootleg, but anyone of this era will recognise the record art. There was something about this time, where producers were able to create this cut up style and make it so addictive. Producers like Todd Edwards and MK really had a new approach to dance music.”


Tuff Jam

Tuff Jam were like heroes when I was first gracing dancefloors. We used to follow them to gigs all over the south and London. Whether it be as a duo or just Karl ‘Tuff Enuff’ or Matt ‘Jam’ playing alone. They were the more soulful, purely House spectrum of the scale. Going back through the records, I had to include a few as the tracks sound so much like the music that’s being made today and demonstrate just how genre-defining they were. Their mix compilation Underground Frequencies was a huge moment for the sound, and we are talking the days before podcasts- when a legimate mix sold tens of thousands. It really mapped out a scene. They were really the crossover point from New York to London in my eyes.


Armand Van Helden

I know he is American but it was London and the UK that really came to adopt his music and remixes. I remember reading how Armand Van Helden hated House music and wanted to make Hip Hop. But he was damn good at making House music and maybe that’s why he kept doing it. When so much of the music of this era had really basic production he was on another level, and the basslines were so strong. The Sneaker Pimps remix was one of the heaviest things you could hear in a club. Then a couple of years later, Flowerz was just an amazing piece of vocal House. It’s a record that constantly twists, and it’s always rising, but with an unabashedly full vocal.


New Horizons

For me New Horizons are completely underrated, even now people don’t often mention them as classic artists of the era. But for me the production is so fresh. It’s cut up but with a bit more style, and the structure is different to the other producers of the time.”


Underground Solution / Azuli

Underground Solution looked and sounded like American House records. It really was a crossing point for the sound. Azuli had many sounds during their history but in the mid-90s had some big Garage tracks, and affiliation with the Blackmarket record shop meant they were right at the forefront of the UK sound that was happening at the time.

David Piccioni, who owned Azuli, once told me that when he started the label they shrink wrapped the records and priced them higher so people thought they came from America. That was the general vibe of the day; the best House came from across the Atlantic. Slowly the UK took over, though, and that was such an interesting period for music. This was before the internet, when imports came in on vinyl.

“Record shops listened to the tracks down the phone, it all sounds a world away from today but added to the excitement of things. It’s also something that is hard to recreate now with the internet- a music style happening in one location and then being taken by another, tweaked and crafted into a new sound. Hence UK Garage. The Bump & Flex remix of Indo was also at the start of the more 2-step sound that came after. If you listen to the intro beats, it’s all off kilter and when the bassline drops it throws you in all different directions. It was and still is the sound of many pirate radio stations in London.


Needwant’s Traxx: The House That Built Garage is out to buy now, compiled by Sean Brosnan.