ANDY LEWIS with DIVY & P.O.P. MC, SASSA'LE and SmoothE1MC at Sky Bar (132 Queen's Quay East), Friday (August 10). $10. 416-724-3371. www.flirtcanada.net
Andy Lewis, A&R man of Locked On Records, has seen UK garage go from completely underground to top-40 pop music in Europe.Sounding like a hyperactive cross of R&B, house and drum 'n' bass, UKG, or 2-step, as it's also known, is the newest sound to come out of England.
As a genre, it has yet to make much impact in North America. Craig David may be getting some airplay on commercial radio, but the house scene has yet to warm to the sound. Many older heads see it as just another case of the UK stealing black American music.
"I went down to the Miami Winter Music Conference and introduced myself to a bunch of the American producers, and they were all, like, "So you're the one making all that funny sped-up garage.' "I think it is to be expected. They've got their interests to protect. In the early days, we were definitely looking to America -- we would speed up the dub versions to mix with the stuff we were making.
"The British have always been good at repackaging American music and selling it back. You can't deny the sales -- it's become huge on the charts here, way bigger then d 'n' b." The UKG sound developed out of the drum 'n' bass scene sometime around 1996, as more and more partiers started yearning for melodies and slower tempos. In the beginning, it featured the four-on-the-floor house kick drum but combined it with big d 'n' b bass lines and a faster tempo then most house.
Soon, the 2-step rhythm came to dominate, and the term "speed garage" became a thing of the past, associated with only the early years. "I see the scene fragmenting into different styles, like what you saw happen to d 'n' b. Lately, the trend has been toward a harder, more minimal sound. The jazzy live sound hasn't really appeared yet, but it will. I know of a few people right now working on tracks in that style.
"It's good for the music to diversify and change like that."