For our final RNTY25 interview we turn to Ruffneck Ting co-founder and original producer Substance for his memories of Ruffneck’s early days plus what he’s up to now.
Tell us about your part in how Ruffneck Ting was conceived…
Well, around 1992, I had a small studio in my bedroom I rented in Easton. Making some prototype jungle stuff, I met Mari via a notice in Cotham Post office, we shared a flat and she was talking about getting a set of decks, and I said she should definitely get some decks and be a DJ, I’ll be the producer and we’ll do a night!
We went to a lot of raves around that time like Castlemorton, Fantazia and many classic events back then, but the police were clamping down on the free party scene and it became harder and harder to find parties. By this time we’d made lots of friends through the rave scene, the original Ledge crew!
Then one day, I had my Ruffneck keyring in my pocket and we went to the Bank on Stokes Croft which was behind our house in Dalton Square, we met the lady in there and spoke about putting my small system in there with Mari’s decks on a Wednesday night. I looked across the bar and there was a can on Ting there and I immediately said we can call it Ruffneck Ting! That’s the true story of the birth of a legend.
Can you explain what Bristol was like back then club wise, it’s changed a lot hasn’t it?!
There were a lot of clubs back then, but the names have changed. Lakota was the Moon Club, Blue Mountain was there I think, Malcolm X Centre. Some clubs have come and gone, but it seems like it’s not changed that much! Except for the refurbishments.
Tell us about the Ruffneck Ting’s first home, The Bank…
The Bank looked a lot different than it does now, actually it was like a classic pub, we just added decks in the corner. At the first Ruffenck I remember meeting Krust and Roni, I knew Die already from the free party scene. I’ll alway remember Roni asking if he could play and Dazee saying he’ll need to submit a mixtape, which didn’t do down too well, hahaha!
After that Ruffneck moved to its first proper club, the Depot, what was that like?
We joined forces with Krust and moved Ruffneck to a weekly night at the Depot, this is where we ‘made our bones’. Only up the road was Trinity Hall and I had an eye on that as well, so one Friday I nipped out of the Depot and went and met the Trinity management and Ruffneck booked its first nights there.
After the Depot it moved to the Malcolm X Centre, what do you remember most about the sessions?
I loved the Malcolm X session – very deep and underground. I remember DJ Ron and Five O coming for one of those sessions, seminal night! Also the classic Hot Ting with Bukem.
Ruffneck Ting was held in many different venues but most people consider Trinity to be its true home, why is that and what do you remember?
I think Trinity came into its own around 1996/7, it’s a nice space, with a stage and obviously transmitting live on BBC1 One in Jungle was such a roadblock night, that set Trinity up as a classic Ruffneck venue. Our stage design and backdrops worked with the lasers and a netting roof we used to put up, to give it a move of a rave atmosphere. So music, club design and some youthful energy all came together. It’s still mad to think how young we all were then!
Can you explain the Ruffneck Ting vibe? Jungle / drum & bass in the 90s was often considered moody but Ruffneck Ting never seemed to take itself too seriously.
How can you explain a vibe?! I would say it was our vibe, a very friendly screwface vibe, haha! I used to hand out Ruffneck flyers and as people walked away they would always be saying ‘Ruffneck Ting’ to each other, it created a vibe right there, it was dark and heavy , but never nasty, there was a pure pleasure in the music and vibe of the parties. At the time music was evolving it was new and there was no internet radio or Soundcloud, people experienced the music for the first time through our extra sub bass woofers!
What are your three favourite Ruffneck Ting flyers?
We were always looking for new Ruffneck flyer ideas, the ones the stand out for me at the Bandito Ting at Lakota and Bond Ting at The Malcolm X Centre with Megatron’s daughter on the flyer the only one with a real person I think! Champion Ting as well, big line-up that night.
Who were your three favourite guest DJs?
So many back in the day but Andy C and L Double stand out as big ones, some DJs came and played such classics sets like LTJ Bukem at the Malcolm X Centre. Too many to mention! Randall was always special, Bryan Gee as well.
What were your three favourite events?
One in the Jungle atTrinity, instant roadblock! Doors closed at 10pm and the car park jammed with people listening to the show on their car radios outside! UWE when we had the outdoor marquee and the indoor room, that was large! Also, our night hosting AWOL at Lakota also stands out as another classic night!
Tell us about how and why you set up Ruffneck Ting Records…
Well, it was a natural progression, I was making tracks for Dazee to play at the club and they were getting some attention. I remember DJ Rap coming and playing a bunch of tracks like Homeboyz and Damn Right. We started collaborating and built up a nice collection of tracks, so we thought, Ruffneck Ting Records, why not?
Tell us about the some of the classic tunes you released…
Oh things happened so fast, we put out tracks and were immediately on to the next ones, it was a very creative time. I still remember Andy C coming to Ruffneck at Trinity and saying, “who did that Homeboyz promo, was that you?” 😉
In those days, you had to record the track onto DAT in real time, (no bouncing!), dash off up to Music House in London to cut the dubplate and then dash back to Bristol to play it at Ruffneck. It certainly created deadlines to get shit done!
As if you didn’t have enough on your plate you then set up Breakbeat Culture Records label and record shop…
We were very busy in the 90s, haha! Looking back it’s crazy really I took on so much but everything was possible in my mind! The stuff I did with Decoder on Breakbeat Culture was the next phase for me musically.
Substance and drum & bass took a bit of back seat with the success of Kosheen didn’t it…
We were still doing Decoder & Substance releases when Kosheen started taking off, we did many double pack vinyl releases, but as Kosheen took up more and more time, with Top of the Pops, videos, radio shows, interviews etc, we were more and more out of Bristol. Unfortunately, Breakbeat Culture, Ruffneck Ting and Substance started taking more of a back seat.
You’re now back playing on Ruffneck Ting events, what can we expect from Substance going forward?
I still love drum & bass and jungle, but I’m quite selective and picky haha! I’ve been doing more drum & bass remixes of my vocal tracks, especially with Alys Be, and Susie Ledge, so it’s nice to follow my heart musically and then let rip with some Ruffneck vibes on the remixes.
What else are you up to music wise these days?
For the last few years I’ve been digging deep dubstep stuff and DJing and repping that sound as Markee Ledge. I’ve always followed my heart musically, and deep dubstep to me is another evolution of jungle / drum & bass. I also like the deeper drum & bass stuff around at the moment.
What are you most looking forward to about playing at Ruffneck Ting at Trinity on June 9?
I think I’m most looking forward to dropping so classic tunes really, some of the big tunes from the early days still sound raw and vibey, the production has certainly improved these days, but the raw vibe is still there in the old tracks.
Anything else you want to tell us about?