Melody Maker | Advance | 10 July 1993 | Photos: Stephen Sweet
"None of Bandulu started out as musicians or DJs. We started as record collectors. Going back a few years, we thought nothing of bunking off school and travelling 100 miles to find this or that tune. We'd then spend hours listening, really ridiculously intensely listening, to whatever we'd picked up."
The fact that their north London HQ looks like a record shop is an indication of how seriously Bandulu take their music. So is the rib-rattling volume at which their stereo is set. It's no surprise that their neighbour, Mick Jagger's brother Chris, is forever hammering on the wall. They usually reply with a quick chorus of "Sympathy For The Devil".
Lucien Thompson, Jamie Bissmire and John O'Connell's record collection ranges from dusty old jazz slates to still-wrapped techno imports. John, whose only contribution to the interview is "Got a fag?" (although he admittedly says this three or four times), is skinning up on a rap album sleeve. Sometime fourth man and frequent Orb DJ Lewis Keogh is putting a copy of "Black Market Clash" to similar use. It's perhaps also worth pointing out here that Bandulu's debut single dubbed up The Smiths.
"The shops eventually ran out of records we wanted to collect," continues Lucien. "So we thought, 'Right, if we can't buy the sort of stuff we're interested in, we'll get our arses in gear and make it ourselves'. We didn't know what the fuck we were doing and our equipment consisted of just two turntables and a mixer, but we were determined to succeed."
Three years down the line and Bandulu have just released their debut album, "Guidance", on the Infonet label. Although it is broadly speaking a techno record, there are tribal and trance tunes, old-style electro and jack tracks, dub rumbles and ambient soundscapes. A bold testament to their desire to always be different, nothing fits squarely with any of the current club formulas.
"There's too much copying in dance music," notes Jamie. "The DJs must take a fair bit of the blame. Andy Weatherall is about the only one who has the guts to go out on a limb. I hate that 'It's gotta have so many million beats per second to be a techno record' attitude."
"It ain't gotta have fucking nothing," bellows Lewis. "There shouldn't be rules in music. Rules in music are bollocks. Open your mind, man, mix it up and do your own thing."
While "Guidance" is undeniably their own thing, Bandulu draw particularly heavily on the influences of reggae and dub. The name of the group, which is rootsman slang for a bad boy, suits the rugged, black sound perfectly.
"The reggae influences come totally natual to us," explains Lucien. "We're not using them to make people think we're cool or trendy. Fucking hell, man, anybody who has been brought up in this part of London has probably been listening to reggae all their lives. It was never black people's music to us. It was basically just school disco music."
Jamie nods in agreement and John asks for another cigarette. Lewis meanwhile cranks the record player up several notches beyond the point where the whole room starts to vibrate, and he and Lucien spend the next couple of minutes talking about how much they love the bassline of this particular track. Although it's impossible to hear a single word they're saying, there can be no mistaking their almost delirious enthusiasm.
"I'd like to think that 'Guidance' is an enthusiastic album, a passionate album," says Lewis when the earthquake finally stops. "It certainly ain't the work of clinical boffins."
"Too right, man," snaps Lucien. "To me, techno is like jazz in that it inspires extreme reactions. Either you totally love it, or you fucking detest it. Then there's the way that there's always a strong underground, which the commercial acts always delve into and nick off, while the true creators keep experimenting, keep going into some new, unexplored territory."
"'Ere, what’s this like?" asks Jamie, holding up a blood red record sleeve.
The room starts shuddering again. Nobody pays the slightest attention to the thumping on the wall from next door.