’25 Years of UK Garage’ takes a look back at the UK garage scene paying homage to the DJ’s, MC’s and producers who made it happen. With interviews from the breaking artists at the time, the documentary charts the success of the UK garage scene from its fledgling beginnings to its hedonistic peak before its downfall and then making a surprising festival comeback attracting new crowds both young and old.
Taking us through some of the history are Terry Stone and Jason Kaye, the masterminds behind Garage Nation (a spin-off of their One Nation rave events), who became major players in putting on garage events during the ’90’s and 00’s. Their knack for finding the top talent such as the chart topping So Solid Crew along with booking the best venues put them front and centre of the UK garage scene.
With its sound coming from US garage and hip hop mixed with the UK jungle and drum and base, UK garage was finding its audience on the radio through the likes of one of its earliest proponents DJ EZ. Tracking back to the pirate radio stations such as Supreme FM and Delight FM, the interviewees explain how by setting up these DIY stations they risked everything i.e. their records and equipment, if caught by the DTI (Department for Trade and Industry). The relationship between the pirate radio stations and the rave events, flyers, dubplates (the promo records played at events) and tape packs from the MC’s and DJ’s were crucial in helping the scene take off in London with the track “Casualty” by Oxide and Neurtino one of the first to “blow up”.
Now considered Old Skool, it has been superseded by the likes of drill and grime music, but UK Garage at the time was one of the biggest music scenes to happen in London and UK with its hedonistic party atmosphere mix of music, girls, champagne, designer clothes (Versace, Moschino and Patrick Cox some of the brands of choice) and designer drugs. Through a healthy competition between the DJs and MCs they pushed themselves to new highs and these ground breaking times seemed to culminate in the take-over of the holiday party island of Ayia Napa.
Terry and his team took the Garage Nation brand to the island, bringing over the DJs and by then garage had become mainstream with a number 1 track in the charts, “Do you really like it?“, and the unmistakable voice of MC DT singing “We’re loving it, loving it, loving it.”
There is much joy taken by them in reminiscing about the parties on the island, but their euphoria couldn’t last forever as they tell how the good vibes were getting overshadowed by overzealous punters, gangsters and violence, which was getting too much for the locals and the local police, who wanted their sleepy fishing town in the Mediterranean back.
There was a similar pattern happening in the UK with the gangs getting more violent, with more stabbings and more shootings. The garage scene was getting a bad reputation and the government and police were cracking down on the venues who became reluctant to book garage acts in case there was any trouble.
Bookings were on the decline but enter James Shadimehr, a young 19 year old student, who’d picked up the event bug putting on under 18 discos. He bought the Garage Nation brand with the support from his family and after many dark days and years, including a pandemic lockdown, he’s managed to re-energise the Garage Nation brand and re-invent it not just as a club night but a festival with 10,000 party goers, bringing back the halcyon days.
Directed by Terry Stone and Richard Turner “25 Years of UK Garage” is a nostalgic look back at a highly influential music scene in the UK. Amongst the pioneering DJs, MCs (mostly the So Solid Crew and Heartless Crew) and producers are several well-known faces in the music industry including DJ Matt ‘Jam’ Lamont, Ms Dynamite, MC Harvey, Lisa Maffia and Dane Bowers plus a special guest, impromptu performance from boxer Anthony Joshua.
What’s interesting is seeing this social cross-section of London’s youth culture at that time and hearing about the journeys they went on. Some of the conversations are quite unfiltered as they nostalgically reminisce about their triumphs as well as their misdemeanours with one DJ commenting, “Clubland has always been a bit naughty no matter what era you were from.”
It’s entertaining seeing the two different styles between the old skool proprietors of Garage Nation, Terry Stone and Jason Kaye, put side by side with the new younger generation of James Shadimehr, they seem like chalk and cheese in their approaches, but aim to have an equally big impact on UK Garage.
Surprisingly the music takes a quieter back seat for the most part, playing softly in the background and doesn’t get a proper airing until the final credits, probably due to budgetary restrictions.
What will be next from Terry Stone or James Shadimehr and Garage Nation? Those interested in a good nostalgic fix will certainly be tuning in.
“25 Years of UK Garage” will be available on Digital from 5 December. Follow the film via their social channels or on TikTok.
Film: 25 Years of Garage
Director: Terry Stone & Richard Turner
Genre: Documentary, Music
Stars: Richie Campbell, Anthony Joshua, MC Harvey, Lisa Maffia & Megaman
Run time: 1hr 30mins