MC Lenni

Back in the JUNGLETECHNO hot seat is Birmingham legend MC Lenni.

Lenni gives JungleTechno a lowdown of his past present and future.
MC Lenni's career spreads over 20 years having been involved with nearly every aspect of the rave scene not just as an MC, but as a DJ, to promoting his own night -'Starlight'- and Record store -'Pure Records-' also producing his own track on Roughtone Records.
Talking about what he has been up to including his involvement with the Legendary Q Club and Masters of the Past a new oldskool night to hit Birmingham.

1. MC Lenni, with a career that spans back to the late 80’s how did you get involved with the rave scene?

I got involved in the rave scene back in 1986 with Simon Bassline. Smith who used to play jazz funk, I was on the microphone and into actually doing a rave. The rave scene started and they needed someone to hype up the crowd, so it started from there.

There was a lot of talking back then, we came from the soundboy era. There was a lot of sound systems at the time such as Saxon sound, that used to be a big one and that’s where I got my inspiration.

2. Do you remember where you received your first booking?

My first big booking was for Time in1990 at the Institute (Sanctuary), before that it was at a club in Small Heath, I think it was called the Kipper club, on the bill was me and Keith Suckling. From there I did the Bass Place, that was where we started properly with people like Mickey Finn, Seduction, Grooverider, Fabio.

3. Having been involved with the rave scene right from the beginning what has been your most memorable moments??

Actually getting everything off the ground, because it was new to everybody and getting it out there with the help of a lot people in Birmingham. Bringing the Prodigy to Birmingham for the first time, they where good then and you could tell that they where going to be out and out stars.

Also opening the record shop, to be making the tune, then selling the tune and then finally to actually play the tunes. I dj’ed at Fantazia a few times really funny me doing that.

4. In your early days you were found mcing alongside fellow Birmingham legend Bassman. How did you guys hook up and which other mc’s do you enjoy working with?

Obviously at Bass Place, Coast to Coast Bassman used to come as a regular, I’ve known Bassman for a long time, we were friends before the rave started along with his brother Longjohn. We have always been a running joke and one day I gave Bassman the mic. Bassman was my original partner one of my boys, he’s my partner we started together. Maximum respect to him.

Ranksi he’s my Birmingham boy, away from the London crowd. People have to remember our rave the drum and bass jungle scene is built on a London scene.

When I was coming through the major mc’s at the time were Me, Hardcore General, Man Parris, Evenson and Bass there was a core. With that you got Fearless and GQ, GQ is one of my favourites of all time. Skibbadee Juiceman, Shabba, Spyda they are all good at what they do, I have respect for them as we are all in the same game.

But I rate Patrick Mad P, Everson, people who have been in the game and have done it. Bassman, Fearless GQ, Moose even and Dett these are top boys when it comes to mcing. These came and created a game that everyone is following and they set the template. It has evolved. There are different types of mc’s hype, fast chat, lyrical gadget and gimmick mc’s there are so many different type of mc’s that bring different things to the table.

That’s all good especially at that end because they don’t sound the same everybody has their own identity. The new kids that are breaking through they have got to make sure they don’t fall in to the trap of all sounding the same, you need to create your own identity and your own persona.

5. Having mc’ed for over 20 years how has the Birmingham scene evolved over those years?

Birmingham is always playing catch up, that’s not in a bad way I’m not trying to put Birmingham down in any shape or form remember I’m a brummie lad! We picked up the ball and ran with it Birmingham we created our own scene down here which is big. Oldskoool scene is massive we appreciate music a lot, our knowledge is excellent, second to none.

London gets to hear certain tunes first because they are made in London, we know good music but we also know bad music. The scene in Birmingham is very healthy and very good the actual ravers in Birmingham are very loyally people. I can’t emphasise that any more, they are a loyal set of fans and ravers and have supported Birmingham over the last 20 years and are still doing it now.

Obviously my respect goes out to them, it’s not just about the dj’s it’s about the people like yourself who have been in and around for a long time, all the people that used to come to the shop. The younger generation who are getting into oldskool and jungle and drum and bass.

We know what we like and as for ravers we are the best in land easy! That’s why so many gigs and organisations come here along with the London organisations too. Over the years we created our own brands Flashback, Atomic Jam, Raveology, Starlight, Masters etc. so we know how to do it ourselves we got our scene down here.

 

6. Is there a particular year or era that stood out for you?

Between 1992 and 1996 when jungle was really kicking in, that’s where I’m most at ease in my own element, that’s’ where I can flow. The Flashback years which were absolutely mega can’t take those away.

7. You were resident MC for Flashback an infamous oldskool revival night in Birmingham at the Que Club that spanned from 1996 -2006. A night that carved its name in rave folklore which is still talked about many years on. What have been your fondest memories throughout Flashbacks ten year history?

It was a collective of people, Mo, Jimmy, Jez, Danny and I, it was about the actual Flashback ravers it was their gig. We were part of the whole thing, it was their night it was owned by them, we were the tool but they made it theirs. The Flashback crowd and the oldskool crowd made it their own with their people and made it what they wanted.

They were brilliant nights, Me and Mickey have done some slammin nights at Flashback me and Groove, me and Fabio we could go on and on. There never was really a bad one, to be fair when you think about it. Every Flashback had something, it was really good, and there was hardly a Flashback that was bad it never happened. They where top of the tree Flashback was the top of premiership all of them were good!

8. How much of an impact did the closure of the Que Club in 2003 make towards the later years of Flashback?

We lost our spiritual home, when you lose a spiritual home like that, the actual place where it was situated everything was together there. When you lose a place like that it was hard to recreate that atmosphere. Everything was together the building was part of the atmosphere the Que club was part of Flashback, Flashback is part of me I’m part of the crowd everything went together.

When you lose the venue you can have a good Flashback but you can never ever be the same unless it was in there. So the Que club closing had a marked effect on Flashback, the quality of the line-ups or the way we performed as performing artists did not drop at all because we are professionals at what we do. But the venue would never be the same. The venues we had after such as the Sanctuary was not the Que club by far the Custard factory is not the Que club these are good venue to do things but to do what we was doing the Que club was the pinnacle.

9. Aside from Mcing you also had your own Record shop in Digbeth Birmingham Pure Records. Today we have seen the demise of records stores across the UK with virtually all the independents vanishing.

It hurts a lot because i’m in the music business, for the simple reason with vinyl being phased out a lot of shops where phased out too. With online downloads you can and put those on a cd, but you can’t download vinyl its plastic its something you can handle and touch.

With the demise of vinyl brings the demise of record shops it works two ways. Obviously with cdj’s you don’t even have to mix properly the cdj virtually does everything for you, which is ridiculous. I like to mess around changing the speed pitch, when I’m djin I put my finger there etc.. I like the handling. With the cdj’s it’s too easy to mix. You don’t’ have to worry about a big record bag and your not hurting your back actually I wouldn’t mind djing again today ha ha.

10. Living in the today’s digital era of MP3’s and CD’s what are your thoughts regarding CD’s taking over Vinyl?

It was always going to happen technology moves on, there’s stuff you could do 20 years ago but you can’t do now. It evolves, it was always going to evolve that’s the way. It’s great that way because at the end of day the young people can get hold of what we were doing back in the day.

You can’t stop progress, progression will always happen you either get on board or you don’t. Sooner or later something will take over that, it’s a medium we got to live with its there and it’s not going away. It has turned into one of the tools of our trade now, its how you use it as such simple as that.

 

11. As one of Birmingham’s figureheads within the Oldskool / DNB circles how do you feel seeing the likes of Biggie, G Child, Escape etc who used to watch you as well visit your shop making a big name for themselves today??

It makes me feel proud, very proud the people you mention I know them very well and they have worked for me at one time. Their keeping Birmingham alive and absolutely brilliant at what they do that’s why they have got to where they have though their own talent. G Child is my boy I thank him for giving me a big up for helping his career but obviously they got the talent in the first place. I’m proud of them putting Birmingham on the map not just the old boys.

Birmingham has always been short of quality dj’s but now we got the likes of Escape, Hazard who is flyin Biggie on the MC circuit, G –Child on 1 Xtra flyin. They are a name for themselves and made their own mark I’m happy for them chuffed 100%

12. Do you still feel that there is a divide outside of London regards to Drum and Bass artists breaking through?

No, obviously we have Hazard and Escape who play in London we are going down there to play, for the first time in a long time. They recognise us as a force, we can play on their level the divide has now gone, that is due to the digital era. The likes of Hazard and Escape putting their tunes on the net so the London people can know we can make good tunes, the tunes are out there. The London DJ’s are playing Birmingham tunes, there’s no divide now.

13. You and the legendary Grooverider are very close how did you feel to learn about him being arrested in Dubai late last year?

Absolutely gutted, shocked, surprised and hurt. Grooverider is my boy and I find it ridiculous first and foremost, for the quantity he had it is ridiculous. Obviously different places, different rules Groove fell short to their rules I don’t find it is right but it’s not my country. I hope he is home soon we are all thinking about him.

14. What effect will this have on his career, and to artists playing abroad particularly Drum and Bass?

None what so ever, it will make him bigger and better, Grooverider is worldwide. When he comes out the whole world will want him, every promoter in England and the world will want to book him. Grooverider is Grooverider!

This will make sure when we go abroad that we adhere to the laws of the land we are playing in, and that we will check ourselves properly. It has shaken people, so that when we go to these countries we follow the laws of their land.

15. The Q club finally reopened its doors at the end of last summer, the clubbing scene has not really been affected by as an anticipated in and around the city.
What changes and developments can we expect from the Q club, over the coming months with your involvement?

Now I’m involved I’m meticulous about how I run things, I’m a perfectionist, so I’m going to give the best product to the ravers. With the likes of Mickey and Fabio and my fellow peers they know when they come to play for me that it has got to be top draw.

The Q club is moving forward everything that opens up is going to have teething problems, the Q club is no different. New management new problems it’s as simple as that. You have to iron out the problems first, which are now ironed out and we are going forward. It’s picking up again and people have noticed this.

The raves that are going in are from big brands such as Cream, Space, Ministry, Masters, Atomic Jam. With a lot of professionalism we are back to being a professional outfit, we are going forward. We have to keep our standards high and set our goals so people want to come in there again and good organisations want to hire the place. As long as we can keep the standards up then there will be no problem.


 

16. Recently we have seen you co-promote Masters of the Past a new night focusing on the oldskool era. What is your involvement with Masters?

I’m running the lot, the whole shebang, it’s my baby along with the Q club. They are doing the club side I’m doing the dj side of it, so we marry the two together. We are trying to take this somewhere else and everything that I’m involved with like I said before, it has got to be done proper because I don’t suffer fools. It’s got to be done to my spec which is the highest of the highest and the best of the best.

If I didn’t think they were professional to work with I would not to be in there, right now it’s my baby. Starlight it still part of my company along with others, if I wanted to, I could do Starlight any time.

With me being involved it takes a lot of burden off them because they know I’m a perfectionist and I’m straight forward.

Some of these people are my personal friends I will not let down my friends, Mickey’s of these world and Fabio’s Groove’s, Seduction, Simon, Bukem etc.. these are my pals. We went through the same thing at the same time in our lives so the Q club will be alright as long as we keep our eye on the ball.

I’ve changed a few things for Masters, I thought the drinks prices where a bit steep so I brought them down, the security are light and polite not a problem. The sound system I brought in for this one in September is ridiculous and the line-ups are high spec everything has to be best of the best. So when people go Masters we give them the best.

17. Having promoted Starlight in the early 90’s and being part of Flashback what can we expect at Masters of the Past?

Like Flashback and Starlight I intend to bring the best of the best to Birmingham to perform. People must remember these are performing artists these are top of the game these people that are coming to the club are Legends. They’ve been around the world hence masters of the past, because they are Masters of the past and the future they are Masters Period.

I feel we should not cut short, no disrespect to anybody else I’m going to bring the best of the best simple as that. It doesn’t get any higher, there is no higher than the Mickey’s and the Fabio’s that’s the bar. So were trying to keep it high with proper line-ups so the ravers know they are listening to the best.

We want to bring back the vibe, bring some joys, happiness and good laughs. If I can bring back some enjoyment and see the ravers enjoying themselves then I’m happy that’s me done job done. All I want to do is give the ravers a good night as its their rave I’m turning Masters into their night, its not Lennni’s night it’s their night. The way its going I can see it doing very well indeed.

18. Do you have a message to the people of Birmingham ahead of masters of the past?

It’s gonna be big, be very enjoyable your going to see the masters performing ie Mickey Finn, Fabio Ratpack with Everson and Mark, these are people have been in the game from day dot. It’s going to be a wicked night, the vibe is going to be there the venue is going to be dressed lovely, it’s going to be a good night back to the old days people are going to enjoy themselves go home happy and wait for the next one.

Shout outs to all my usual people, Nitesh, Escape, Ranski, Billy, Manaj and the Q club crew, all my DJ friends Mickey, Fabio etc., my wife and kids, all the ravers and big thank you and respect to the Birmingham ravers.

I'd personally like to thank Lenni once again for inviting me into his home and taking time out to carry out this interview.

MC Lenni has kindly given JungleTechno 3 pairs of tickets for the forthcoming Masters of the Past - Saturday September 2008 - Q Club Birmingham. Click HERE for your chance to win a Pair of Tickets !

August 2008

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Words By Nitesh / Xtra-C Flashbackin' & Rewindin'