During 1990/91, Alex Romane worked intermittently at Chrysalis Records in London as a trainee music producer under Stuart Slater's publishing department. In the studio, the focus was on Acid and Acid Jazz with producer Evil Evan ['20 Seconds to Comply' - Silver Bullet] but since 1986 and in his home studio, Alex was producing Electro Hip Hop, House, Techno, Acid and then Punk Rock fusions when later engineering and producing for Punk Rock and Thrash Metal bands on the live scene.
The inter-play between layering processed drum parts and acoustic rhythms, synthesis and sound engineering were Alex's passions and so he turned down a publishing and recording contract with Chrysalis [who wanted him to front and promote his own music] and instead set out to establish himself within the industry as a freelance dance music producer and drum and synth programmer writing and producing for others.
During 1990 and through the lack of a sampler, Alex started sampling James Brown and Schooly-D drum rhythms into a friends borrowed Boss DSD-2 Delay Sampler guitar pedal so as to provide a Breakbeat feel to back up his Alesis Human Rhythm Machine in his Acid, House and Hardcore music.
Breakbeat music itself was created by early 1970's New York Funk and Soul DJ's who started to mix only the drum break parts of tracks back-to-back, instead of mixing whole tracks back-to-back. Some people believe that UK producers later sampling these break beats into complex samplers led to the creation of Jungle and Drum and Bass but, samplers [like the popular Akai S3000] didn't have sequencers. Dissecting, arranging, mashing-up and re-triggering drum rhythms has nothing to do with sampling and only everything to do with sequencing, as it is the sequencer [usually external] that dictates to the sampler when to activate a particular sample in its memory banks.
To summarise; samplers are not responsible for the character of rhythms or their complexities and in 1991, Jungle/Drum and Bass was happening without Akai samplers!
In 1973, DJ Kool Herc was the first DJ to loop a break beat by running it from 2 records back-to-back and so therefore, Kool Herc created Breakbeat as a music form and, he was also the world's first Hip Hop DJ. Late 1970's Funk/Soul-Electro fusions [roots in early 1970's Electro and Techno initially created by Kraftwerk and Yellow in Europe] led to the creation of the world's first definitive Hip Hop track 'Planet Rock' [Africa Bambata - New York 1982].
In 1986, Coldcut had released 'Say Kids, what Time is It?' which featured a James Brown drum rhythm which later appeared again in Fresh 4's 'Wishing On A Star' in 1989, and so in 1990 Alex also started to experiment with this particular James Brown rhythm along with rhythms from Schooly-D's 'Somewhere In The Land of No Rap' album.
The James Brown sample was originally recorded by Clyde Stubblefield in 'Funky Drummer'  and was released as a single in 1970 but, it was not widely known until the release of James Brown's 'In The Jungle Groove" album .
The pedal sampler had a memory of less than 1 second so, only the first 2 -3 beats of any bar of the James Brown drum track were able to be captured and replayed. To perform a full bar [4 beats] of drum music, the sample would be repeatedly re-triggered.
To eliminate the resulting rigid 'flat beat' feel of the re-triggered 1 bar sequence, Alex re-triggered the sample at irregular intervals throughout the bar and, mostly before the sample itself had ended. Doing this over the length of 1 or more bars provided a dissected and 'chopped' feel to the Breakbeat rhythm and also intermittently threw the snare drum away from its original position on the 'up' beat.
With the same principals applied, another sample of the same James Brown drum loop was taken but, starting from the 2nd beat in the bar [the 'up' beat/snare hit] and the 2 samples were then layered, alternated and crafted together through multi-tracking. It very strictly was not, as some would say, a case of alternating the roles of the bass drum ['down' beat] and snare drum ['up' beat] strikes.
At the time, if Alex had access to bigger sampling devices, the need to re-trigger the sample would never had arisen and, Alex feels that this is largely why no one else was doing it at this time. Put simply, it was not common for Acid heads to be working with Punk Rock or Thrash Metal bands and also, Acid heads with home studios could sample for far longer than just 1 second with their Akai S3000 samplers.
These producers mostly replayed drum parts as they were sampled and argued that doing so was by way of a compliment to the artist responsible for creating the original rhythm. Alex argued that to just rip off other artists was in no way a compliment, but was just a lazy way of 'beefing-up' tracks. He instead believed that the best way to compliment an artist was to create something original based upon the inspiration of what was sampled.
The typical underground home studio would consist of midi or combined midi-analogue equipment. Atari computers with 64 track sequencing software [Notator and Creator] along with Akai S3000 samplers were the norm and so for Acid heads working underground and from home, there was no need and more importantly, no will, for re-triggering and dissecting and, there was no exposure to analogue guitar effects units or, exposure to the aggression of Punk Rock and Thrash Metal either for these programmers and producers.
Generally, not being musicians, Acid heads were not interested in working with conventional forms and conventional musicians were not interested in working with highly processed music but, Alex was fortunate enough to be able to find conventional artists who were interested - hence Alex's relationship with Acid, Punk Rock, Thrash Metal, Reggae and Folk.
As there were no time-stretch facilities on the sampler pedal, the 'pitch' control was increased so as to speed up the BPM of the sampled drum loop and this also naturally changed the tone of the drums making them sound a bit more 'techy'.
The 'line out' signal taken from the sampler was then routed directly into additional Boss guitar Phaser PH1R and Chorus CE-2 pedal effects units to act as intermittent 'fill-ins' at the end of 4 and 8 bar sequences so as to regularly refresh the feel without using additional sounds.
Again, using these effects on whole drum parts was unheard of at the time but eventually, it became such an influence that whole track parts [not just the drums] across other genres soon started conforming to the use of these effects in this particular way also.
After routing the sample through the Phaser and Chorus units, a Boss guitar Overdrive OD3 pedal effect unit would then be used to 'industrialise' the dry James Brown drum sounds into something bigger and more metallic. The Overdrive effect also provided an edge that was common in Punk Rock and Thrash Metal and so the aggressive drum styles that Alex loved working with at the time carried through.
Finally, the signal was then fed directly into a Boss RPS-10 Digital Pitch Shifter Delay [Echo] Modular effects unit. With the 'feedback' setting on medium and the 'rate' setting on maximum with a medium volume ratio output for the Delay effect, the sample was able to ricochet off into the distance when applied to the final quarter-beat [1/4th] or the final snare strike in any 1,2,4,8 or 16 bar sequences.
At the end of the effects daisy chain, the Pitch Shift effect from the RPS-10 enabled snares [particularly] to 'spring' up or down a pitched scale adding even more character if activated after the Delay.
The Alesis drum machine that Alex was using to back-up his sampled dissected drum rhythms was at the time, the only drum machine in the world that used acoustic drum samples instead of processed/synthetic sounds. As the Alesis was specifically a Human Rhythm Machine instead of a drum machine, drum parts could be altered in ways that other drum machines couldn't do. For example; timings could be manipulated to mimic the looseness of a real human drummer and, the pitch of every instrument within the unit could be altered independently - even independent of other incidences of the same drum used within the same bars.
As the Alesis was designed specifically with psycho acoustics in mind and, as Alex had previously completed a diploma course in the study of the science of psycho acoustics whilst at college, it was natural that some heavy experimentation in drum music would ensue - even before introducing samples.
During 1989 and in his Electro Hip Hop, Acid and Hardcore music, he started to use these facilities and he would commonly re-pitch dry acoustic snare strikes within tracks. He continued to use this effect in his Progressive Hardcore more and more and snares soon started flying up and down the scale to act as intermittent 'fill-ins' whilst a dissected break beat ran on top.
All of the effects units were set up to be used independently and 'on the fly', meaning that more personality could be expressed throughout the entire track length as opposed to just within sub sequences - therefore giving more personality to the entire track itself.
Alex was also studying the patterns in the current Hardcore scene and noticing that in London, the tempo of Hardcore was gradually increasing from around 130 bpm - particularly at events held by Orange Club [1990-91]. In a conscious attempt to create a new form of underground dance music, he used his new dissected aggressive drum rhythm style at 140 - 150 bpm with Hardcore, Techno and even Trance [known at the time as LRTTT music - Li'l Louis 'French Kiss' being the originator in 1989] and continued to develop this music [a form of Progressive Hardcore] with others.
He sent demo's of various Progressive Hardcore projects to a handful of the major labels and publishers in London throughout 1990/91 and worked on new projects with friends in London and the South West but, the new music was not received positively by the majors who at the time had a policy of not working with underground producers - despite John Peel playing related tracks by Alex on BBC Radio 1 at the time!
Alex never believed in holding a monopoly on ideas within the studio and generally shared his latest experiments, ideas and resources with others around him at any time. Whether sharing newly-created engineering techniques, advising upon psycho acoustics, or simply trying to secure recording and publishing deals for friends, he has always encouraged new developments in music directly and through others.
The hope was that by the time any tracks were released, they would naturally be in sync with a faster Hardcore movement but, with the addition of a new aggressive and dissected Breakbeat drum rhythm style and therefore, potentially have more success in evolving Progressive Hardcore into a new music form.
Conventional string and piano pads and samples from the House scene and general synth and guitar parts were largely eliminated as they often made the track sound tacky. This aspect later got together with fast-paced House and Techno-oriented beats and unfortunately, this gave birth to Happy Hardcore.
"Speeding up conventional music and dissecting the rhythms alone, does not make Progressive Hardcore - it generally makes shit!"
It was mid-1991 when the major labels started to realise that they would have to shift their outlook but, only because Pop tracks released by the independents were now starting to feature aspects of the underground Acid, House and Hardcore scene.
Alex believes that this wouldn't have happened without The Prodigy's 'Charlie' hitting the UK number 1 spot in August. Now, managers working with the major labels and the independents were starting to hire producers from the underground to make their pop productions more trendy and so the major's eventually 'sold out' to the underground - it was never the other way around.
Alex explains; "This is why those who maliciously accused acts such as The Prodigy and The Shaman of 'selling-out' got it completely wrong. If the masses outside of the underground scene also appreciated their music, then isn't that a massive achievement? How pretentious and elitist would it have been if The Prodigy had intentionally pulled units from shop shelves to stop them charting simply to satisfy the music intelligencia and more importantly, what is so wrong with artists from any scene making as much money as they can if people are happy to pay for their music?"
The intelligencia will always to some extent, consist of non-musicians and failed DJ's who sit around the edges judging the artists and conditioning the audiences and they are also regular inhabitants of A&R departments within both major and independent labels. They have nothing to do with music creation or, with music as a language and everything to do with revenue generation and, the internet was their enemy until monetary decisions forced them to get friendly with it - especially the majors.
Since 1994, Alex was experimenting and learning about on-line PR mechanisms and by 1997 he was already working on viral marketing concepts and so it shocked him when he was threatened with legal action upon merely suggesting to one particular record company that they upload some tracks to the web for free so as to use piracy as a form of viral marketing and promotion.
In Alex's opinion, the whole argument about 'selling-out' is 'bullshit' because once an artist has made the decision to sell their music for monetary gain at any level - they have already sold out. We have all sold out from the day we are born because this is when we accept a life that revolves primarily around money-making [especially in the West].
Alex believes that an underground movement will always exist in any scene whilst there are musicians and producers who do not seek fame and, whilst musicians and producers are not recognised by promoters and labels. Recognition from the wider public is not required in order for underground producers to maintain a viable career.
Up until the change in attitude of the major labels, the underground scene was dominated by regular Acid, House and Hardcore releases into a purely 12 inch, DJ-based market from forward-thinking independents [such as Profile Records in London who were also largely responsible for doing the same in New York with Electro Hip Hop during the 1980's].
It was after this shift that Alex soon started hearing Progressive Hardcore drum rhythm styles being re-branded and duplicated by others in London as 'Jungle'. The addition of Reggae-oriented rhythm parts and Ragga vocals after 1991 fuelled various further developments followed by claims from within the Ragga scene that Jamaican Toasters created this new music [some claims made even as late as in 1994!] so Alex decided to look for a fresh start away from London but, to continue to work with Progressive Hardcore/Jungle fusion ideas, Electro Dub forms and Electro Hip Hop, but separately.
Alex believes that up until the end of 1991, no tracks anywhere consisted of dissected Funk, Soul and/or Hip Hop Breakbeat rhythms over Hardcore at 140 bpm or higher and, Alex still has possession of his very first recording made in 1990 of him using the process described above with Clyde Stubblefield's 'Funky Drummer' rhythm to create the origins of what would soon after influence the drum style of Jungle and Drum and Bass.