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A Not-So-Brief History of Oldskool Hardcore Reissues

Recently, there was a heavily shared piece written by Ian McQuaid of the “Ransom Note” website regarding Oldskool Hardcore Reissues. The article focused entirely on two individuals / labels who seem to have been doing the largest number of reissues as of late: Robin of Stay on Target, and DJ Jedi of Jedi Recordings. I’m friendly with both Robin and Jedi, and have huge respect for Simon Underground who is handling the pressing and distro side of Robin’s releases – full support to their releases. However, the article focused only on these two people in the present and completely neglected to mention anyone else involved past or present with these type of releases – some of who have already reissued some of the tracks discussed in the piece. Since I’ve been buying these reissues from the time they started (and really relied on them early on since I didn’t have the cash for original presses of many records), I think it’s important to try to document the history of these type of releases: when and where they started, who the main movers and shakers were, and how the releases changed over the years in format/sales.

90’s-2004

Going way back to near-oldskool times, there were an absolute TON of reissues put out around 2000-2003 by major DNB distributors and/or people in some way connected to the original labels. Here’s a hopefully somewhat comprehensive list (additions in the comments, please!):

Aside from these, bonus points go to the grand daddy of all early reissues, The Formation Records Box Set. This was a big release (both figuratively and literally), containing 10 records, including some rare/best of tracks from Formation’s 7 year history, plus some some less obvious choices (The Power Play Vol 1 doublepack, which is a personal favorite and in my opinion some of Formation’s best work, but a very confusing choice for the box set). This Box Set came out back in 1997, so not counting “Best of” type rave comps and the earlier of the two basement classics series (which was mostly current-for-the-time happy hardcore remixes of oldskool), it probably has to get credit for being the first SERIOUS oldskool reissue undertaking.

All of these reissues make sense: it had been 5-10 years from the point of original release, and some of these EPs had gone on to be quite pricey, even more so for the big tunes because there wasn’t yet a standard globalized market like Discogs to help set realistic prices on vinyl. In that era, a lot of the biggest tunes that had been pressed in massive quantities at release time (and hence were far from the rarest releases out there) still fetched serious money. For instance, an original Krome & Time or Criminal Minds EP which sets you back £10-20 now might have been £50-75 then, since if you were lucky enough to see it in a store, you couldn’t immediately go check the internet and find 20 other copies for sale from various people. Add to this the fact that the vinyl market was still relatively strong during this time, and these reissues were an easy choice for labels and distributors.

In 2003, Paul Pryor aka DJ Kingsize (who was producing his own throwback new-hardcore at the time) did something a little different: a very nice reissue of the Yolk “Sunny Side Up” EP. This EP is by most accounts a classic, well known in the UK but also in the US due to inclusion of one track on the Speed Limit: 140bpm comp (a foundational comp for a lot of Americans when it came to hardcore/jungle, alongside DB’s “History of our World” CD). The “Sunny Side Up” EP was also an obscure enough release that no distro may have bothered to reissue it on their own, if Kingsize had not done it himself. About a year later, the online jungle store Vinyl Connection did a series of reissues/previous unreleased releases, such as the classic Anthill Mob first EP and a bunch of Nookie EPs. These were excellent, and probably the first examples I’m aware of where an outside person got an oldskool artist to let them reissue a combination of classic EP tracks AND unreleased stuff hanging around on DAT.

2006-2010

Following these releases, the first notable “fan-based” reissue/unreleased record I can think of was probably the Potential Bad Boy “Everyday Child” EP on Sublogic / 92 Retro in 2006. This EP really was what I consider the most crucial “next generation” reissue (no disrespect to the vinyl connection and panic project ones which were also great). It was quite important because, rather than a label rereleasing their most popular tunes, here we had two random oldskool collectors /fans (Will Irvine and Dave Elusive) licensing a tune which, despite being totally unknown, was paradoxically in heavy demand by a niche oldskool audience. To explain that apparent contradiction: the track in question, “Everyday Child”, was played in one of the most popular early 90’s hardcore rave sets, Top Buzz’s New Years Eve 91-92 set:

This Top Buzz set was one of those classics which was copied endlessly back then and was such a favorite that a lot of oldskool fans ended up most of the songs from it on wax, even the dodgy ones, due to familiarity from the set. Because of this, it was a serious coup for two unknown internet fans to finally figure out what one of the last “unknowns” from this set was, and get the chance to put out a super limited 100 copy release so that the die hard collectors could own the song and hear it in its entirety. Listening back now (and as I remember being pointed out at the time), “Everyday Child” was also very ahead of its time for a 91 track, sounding like it could fit comfortably anywhere in the 1992 Ibiza Records Release schedule.

From this EP sprung two different labels – Sublogic Recordings and Ninety Two Retro. Both of these labels managed to track down and license some amazing tunes, most of which were huge classics back in the day but which were also on smaller labels (no moving shadow / sub base type stuff) and hence were quite pricey to buy second-hand due to skewed supply/demand ratio. Some of my favorites of their reissues:

Notice that Skanna Collection came out a full 8 years before these new reissues and featured a lot of those top Skanna tracks collected onto a double 12″ and single 12″ EP. This release was quite ambitious for the time, since a lot less people had “found their way back” to jungle/hardcore by this point and so a double pack wasn’t exactly a sure thing. One additional pivotal repress from 2005 was the D’Livin “Why EP”, which came out on Satin Storm’s label and featured one fundamental must-have classic but also a quite cool previously unknown / unreleased track on the flip. This combination ended up being a solid choice for future reissues, covering both bases for people who wanted the old tracks plus people who had the original EPs but wanted something a fresh press with a different track.

Another distinguishing feature of these reissues was that, since they were pressed by individual fans, they were promoted almost exclusively online and sold through the mail – no heavy distro involvement to speak of. This was the first step towards the current model where most limited jungle releases get sold direct through sites like Bandcamp and BigCartel as opposed to direct to distros, due to the nearly nonexistent profit margin on super small pressing size releases.

Soon after these reissues, Simon Melakaraya, another user from the same forum which a lot of this sprung from (Back to the Oldskool aka B2VOS), put out a series of releases on his label 7th Storey Projects – classic EPs by Release and Aeon Flux to name a few.

Around this time Rhythm Section Recordings planned to do a 9 part reissue series, but it was cut short after 2 volumes (I’m guessing due to low sales?). It’s a bit unfortunate as these EPs were truly excellent with many classic tunes, but it’s also understandable since the originals were always pressed in very large quantities and did not fetch much on the secondhand market. Also, this was when the vinyl market was in a serious downturn, making the prospect of 9 whole releases seem a bit overly ambitious.

There was a nice set of reissues started by 2 Bad / The Good, 2 Bad and Hugly which are well worth checking! I believe a new volume is on its way out or was recently released.

Moving forward to 2011, DJ Jedi releasd a series of EPs for Fantazia, the classic rave organization who had put out a few excellent comps with exclusive tracks by major artists like Orca and Top Buzz back in ’92-’93. A few of these tracks had been on the first volume (which was actually released back in 92) but the remainder were new to vinyl.

Another great “previously unreleased” reissue around 2007 came in the form of the DJ Dove – Bird of Prey EP. As with “Everyday Child”, this had likely been a big unknown want for some people, due to Bukem playing it heavily back in the day and the track’s distinctive loon-based melody. It was also interesting in that it featured a more modern “Hardcore Breaks” remix on the flip. Speaking of Hardcore Breaks…

Bootlegs and New-Oldskool Style Tunes

Aside from repressing old music, it’s important to mention at least in passing the various resurgences of oldskool related music which were popping up in the form of modern productions taking influence from these tunes. The first wave of this was probably a general retro breakbeat hardcore sound (such as the EPs on hardcorewillneverdie and backtotheoldskool. Incidentally, the first release on Back to the Oldskool featured a track by DJ Jedi, of Jedi Recordings). In addition, there was a whole genre known as “Hardcore Breaks”, which was classic oldskool hardcore samples combined with more modern “breaks” sounding drums (less layered and grungy), and the closely related “Rave Breaks”. Rave breaks had a similar formula but was slightly more commercial and almost entirely focused on remixes, where hardcore breaks was usually modern tracks using classic and familiar hardcore samples. Rave Breaks was also primarily pushed almost exclusively by Billy Bunter and Slipmatt in the context of large “best of” oldskool compilations and rave events which were going on at the time.

Aside from these styles, there was also
a genre called “J-Tek”, which was an attempted re-inventing of the classic Ron Wells / Basement Records “Jungle Techno” sound. This never got as much traction as it should have, so it’s interesting to see a lot of these same sounds coming back up more recently with artists like Worldwide Epidemic.

Unfortunately, by briefly summarizing these genres, I’m sure I’ve done about as much justice to them as the original bandcamp article did for reissues (which is to say, not a lot!). If anyone wants to leave a comment with links to better write-ups about these genres, I’m happy to amend this portion at a later point of time.

Also of note, running parallel to legitimate reissues, there were a number of dodgy bootlegs of classic in-demand EPs being put out by persons unknown. The first I remember encountering was the DJ Dance “Death By Stereo” EP, as well as a split DJ Dance / Ragga Symphony Bootleg. This was followed by an early RAM release (Origin Unknown – Eastern Promises), a yellow label Hyper-On “Deaf in the Family” bootleg (possibly pressed in the US), and many more. With these bootlegs, it’s hard to say how much they hurt or helped things. Clearly they filled a need, as these tunes were massively in demand and fetched hundreds of pounds online. However, their presence no doubt lined the pockets of certain dodgy individuals (some of who are still around, one of who more recently bootlegged the Sewer Monsters EP) and may even have put a bad taste in the mouth of the original artists who made the tunes, possibly souring them on future legitimate reissue offers.

2012-2014

Moving forward, from 2005-2012 or so, the reissues continued, and all was (mostly) good. It was still just a handful of dedicated people doing this, but these reissues seemed to come out with fair regularity given the relatively small size of the “scene”. However, around 2011-2012 the reissues seemed to slow down a lot. I don’t want to put words in the label owners’ mouths, but my sense is that it got a bit wearisome tracking these tunes down and dealing with signing them, as some artists could be very mercurial with their willingness to participate with this process. Many artists were burned back in the day by labels or distributors, and had (or continue to have) negative associations with this music even 20 years later. Other artists who did get paid back then, may still expect early 90’s era size record payouts, not realizing the vinyl market had all but collapsed by this time and money made on a pressing size of 150-200 is a hell of a lot less than a pressing size of 5000 back in 1994. Finally, yet more artists seemed interested but would get it in their mind that it’d be better to do a rerelease themselves and cut out the middle-man, not factoring in the thankless gruntwork involved (which inevitably caused them to abandon the project at some later point). I’m also pretty sure some very cool releases ended up not selling well around this time, even though they were pressed in quite modest numbers – more than a bit disheartening both for the labels and their serious supporters.

For a number of years (somewhere in between 2007-2011), It seemed the second you went beyond the tried and true formula of focusing on well known classics which were guaranteed to bring original fans back to fond memories from their youth, the amount of interest rapidly declined and your audience was cut down massively.

However, also around this time, Jungle was picking up outside of its traditional online circles. Uncle Dugs’ show on Rinse FM was getting massively popular and bringing a lot of people back to the music who hadn’t heard it since those early days, as well as exposing some younger kids to it who were more general house/bass music/whatever fans. A lot of these people weren’t the type to dig through internet forums, but they now had a solid place to have oldskool music presented to them in an enthusiastic (to say the least!) manner. Also, though it had been bubbling up from 2004 forward, especially around this time it seemed like an endless stream of factxlrf8der featured artists started referencing jungle, doing their own “tribute” sets and chucking some of the most salient tropes in their own music. This lead to even more young kids getting interested in older sounds, which changed things a bit because a lot of these younger people weren’t tied to certain crucial songs due to hearing them 20 years ago; plenty of these kids weren’t even alive then! Instead, the younger generation of fans were enjoying the sound and signifiers for their own sake, which meant it didn’t matter if it was Valley of the Shadows or a Rezzett EP on TTT.

In addition, activity and interest seemed to shift largely from niche forums to facebook groups and discogs, where the zero effort process of embedding youtube clips and having them pop up on your friends’ social streams, coupled with the ability to then buy those tracks instantly online via discogs, made the already relatively easy process of digging for obscure gems that much easier. It meant people had a pure internet-based way of finding and acquiring tunes, even to a deep and seriously head-y degree. How much has this changed things? The fact that one of the deepest obscurity-for-the-sake-of-obscurity hunters I know of literally lives on the border of Siberia says it all really.

Finally, two other factors which were important in reissues and unreleased-issues gaining interest: 1. a number of top jungle DJs ended up selling off chunks of their collections circa 2012-2014, and 2. continued efforts over the past 10 years of people managing to ID super obscure or even unreleased tunes and post clips ripped from mixes/sets. For #1, as part of these collection sell-offs, quite a few short soundclips started being posted online of exclusive one-off acetates of often rare, obscure or even unreleased tunes. This meant many people were either reminded of tunes they may have heard years ago in a set but never could ID, or just got to hear an amazing tune they’d never heard before even if they’d scoured label discographies end to end and thought they had “heard it all”. This was how my label 8205 Recordings got started: I managed to get my hands on a battered old plate with a nice but unfamiliar jungle tune on it, and after some sleuthing, found out it was written by an old jungle forum friend who happened to still have the DAT kicking around. For #2: during the past 15 years, there has been a tireless online effort by serious heads and collectors to comprehensively ID unknowns and build tracklists for dj sets. People like JJ / Deep Inside the Oldskool, Nebkins, Phil Hardscore, Ornette, plus many more on sites like the rolldabeats forum, tuneid, etc. Not only do they manage to ID absurdly obscure released tracks (b2 tracks on random forgotten whitelabel releases), but somehow they manage to figure out names and artists for some unreleased tunes. Part of this process usually involves short audio clips being ripped and circulated. , which then feeds back into the social media reshare culture mentioned in #1. Altogether, this has raised awareness and interest in a lot of tunes far beyond the top anthems which were most wanted back in 2002-2004.

2014-Present

As for what labels are up to now:

Sublogic was only briefly out of commission. It soon relaunched as KVA – Keeping Vinyl Alive. One of their first releases was in fact a reissue of both previous “best of” Skanna EPs released in 2015 (meaning it’s not much of a “major coup” for someone else to have tracked down the same artist soon after this release). Since then, KVA has gone on to do an amazing “Best of” Intense doublepack, and a recent release with unreleased tunes by both the Invisible Man and DJ Crystl.

Seventh Storey Projects has almost always focused on a mixture of both actual oldskool, as well as new tracks which sound old. Latey, they’ve been doing a bit more of the latter, featuring artists like Tim Reaper, FX and Worldwide Epidemik (full disclosure, they put out at least one track by me). However, their upcoming double EP by Fozbee and Cooz is up for preorder now, and contains plenty of classic gems from back in the day. Along this same line is Scientific Wax, a hugely well regarded label run by Equinox which puts out some classic unreleased 94-95 tunes alongside similar sounding new tunes on their sublabel Sci Wax Retro. Green Bay Wax also does this, though they are almost entirely focused on new old style tunes due to the absurdly huge output by their head honcho Kid Lib and his associates. There’s also AKO Arcade, a new sublabel of DJ Stretch’s label which put out some hitherto unreleased Tom + Jerry cuts (one fully unreleased, one which even the label didn’t realize had been put out discretely by an american label back in 95 – yikes!). Finally Existence is Resistance (run by Persian Prince) put out one wicked EP of unreleased tracks by Bizzy B and D Lux.

Just so no one is left out, a few more recent reissues and labels:

Alongside these new reissues, there’s also a massive resurgence in “new oldskool” music of various forms, but seeing as this post is already way too long, your best bet there is to go check Strictly Nuskool Blog for a better sense of that.

So, there it is. Maybe not 100% complete, but hopefully this is a more thorough picture of the reissue landscape past and present. Nowadays it seems like we’re almost hitting “Peak Oldskool” where you can write “Jungle” on the side of a box and people will throw money at it while they walk by, but that certainly wasn’t always the case. Given that fact, if you’re a big fan of this music, it’s helpful to be aware of the labels and people who were pushing it back when it wasn’t quite so popular. Most likely, these will the people who you can trust to stick around long after the current fad passes, distros lose interest, and releasing oldskool jungle related vinyl goes to being damn-near impossible (as opposed to right now when it’s just mildly difficult)

Edit: Aug 6th 2016 – added a few more releases I missed

13 Replies to “A Not-So-Brief History of Oldskool Hardcore Reissues”

  1. fantastic article mate, very well explained and documented. I do have many of these reissues (well, those which featured unreleased tracks from bitd)

    It’s incredible and even sad to think that records we bought in 2005 when the hardcore breaks revival started going strong (warehouse wax, enormous mouse, etc…) are now old skool in some twisted way

  2. Great read and very comprehensive. There is one gap, 2011 when I released three Fantazia EPs. You are absolutely right that vinyl was not selling well at this time, I have literally only just last month sold the last copies of Fantazia EP #4, five years after it was pressed!

    Facebook and crowd funding sites have really helped make vinyl represses viable again, even if only in smaller numbers.

  3. great article.
    thanks for the mention and acknowledging the re-issue I did of the Yolk release.
    Was very proud of that.
    Any chance of updating the discogs link to the correct one though. It links to some other dude using the same name as me.

  4. Great article mate, covers perfectly some of the essential releases,labels and pioneers in the scene as well as the evolution!
    Bigup for the mention on the Strictly Nuskool Blog too.

  5. Oops, sorry, link has been corrected! The guy I linked to in error was coincidentally one of the first to make breakbeat hardcore in the US, circa 1993.

  6. Great article fella – I should say in my defence that the piece I wrote was for Bandcamp and as such it exclusively focused on artists who release their reissues on Bandcamp – it wasn’t mean to dismiss all the other people doing sterling work, it was actually kinda frustrating to write because there were so many wicked people I had to leave out. Glad you’ve put this together tho,I’ll be sharing it round the place

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