UK DJ and producer Rennie Pilgrem is well known as the godfather of breakbeat, if not, the pioneer of the nu-breaks sound. Now, releasing his anthology entitled The Best Of Rennie Pilgrem, 100% chats with the humble, humorous lad about the breaks scene ahead of what he has deemed his last tour Down Under.
Most breaks fans know Rennie Pilgrem for starting out in UK hardcore breakbeat producer act Rhythm Section (releasing Feel The Rhythm [Comin’ On Strong]) and running TCR, Thursday Club Recordings. His breaks tracks – particularly Like No Other and Hey Funky People – dominated sound-systems in clubs around the world and he’s been at the forefront since starting out in the scene somewhat 20 years ago. Now, Pilgrem is releasing a milestone anthology – The Best Of Rennie Pilgrem. Including some of his best work and some genuine classics from the breakbeat scene, releasing the anthology is something Pilgrem says felt right.
“The time seemed quite right,” he says down the line from London. “I don’t think there’s been a lot of very exciting breaks for the last three or four years. There’s now quite an interesting scene with the future jungle stuff that’s sort of breaks at 140bpm – that’s like dubstep speed but proper breakbeat – which is quite exciting. For instance, in Spain which is a big market for breaks, they’ve gone mad for this retro sound where they get you over and they want you to play your classics, partly because there’s been a vacuum of good, new stuff. So I’ve been doing some sets and I thought, ‘Actually some of this isn’t even available for people to buy digitally’ so it seemed like a good idea [to release The Best Of Rennie Pilgrem].”
Pilgrem says it was a bit of trip down memory lane putting the record together and obviously, there are a bunch of tracks which he’d have loved to included. “There were quite a few but then there’s nothing stopping me doing another one,” he says. “It was very nostalgic; I’ve still got copies on vinyl of everything. Obviously vinyl isn’t as important anymore whereas 10, 15 years ago; it meant everything so it has been an interesting, nostalgic little journey.”
But, the release of this anthology isn’t the only nostalgic moment which Pilgrem is currently celebrating. This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of TCR Recordings, the label which Pilgrem started more than ten years ago and has been at the forefront of the breaks, rave, nu-funk and future jungle scene since it started. “It’s been going strong for 18 years,” Pilgrem says.
To celebrate ten years running, TCR Recordings are putting on a BBQ, something they do every year. And, with the likes of Meat Katie, Pyramid, Terry Hooligan, High Eight, King Yoof, Pilgrem himself and more playing, it’s bound to be a ripper event. “We’ve got an incredible lineup really. It’s a big, free party that we’ve done every year and the main focus of it is great music and the main thing is to try and beat the drinking record at this bar every year,” Pilgrem says, half-jokingly. “It starts off quite civilised and then it’s serious, heavy drinking for 13 hours and having a good party.” Do you remember the first BBQ? “Vaguely,” he says, matter-of-factly.
“People can’t believe it’s all free,” he says of the BBQ. “We’ve had people fly from Europe and Italy and stuff just to come to the party. We actually had a guy fly there, get a cab from the airport, party for 12 hours, get a cab to the airport home and then he had to go to work. Quite impressive. It’s an amazing party.”
As a label, Pilgrem says TCR Recordings has changed greatly over the years. And, as much as the ten-year anniversary BBQ is a celebration of all good things for the imprint, Pilgrem has a realistic view when it comes to talking about the future of the label. “Over time it grew to have quite a very good roster of artists,” he says. “At the moment on the label now, I’m really only doing my stuff because since the whole digital way of buying stuff, most labels – economically - releasing other people’s stuff is not really worth it. Hopefully that might change but it’s too easy for people to get the music for nothing. For you to release someone else’s music and to promote it, just means you’re going to lose a chunk of money each time. I think my way of getting new people would be to do a track and to get people to do mixes of it so that’s the way I do it now.”
Now running a night called ‘Ruffneck’ alongside DJs and producers Jay Cunning and Jurassic, Pilgrem says his upcoming tour down under may well be his last ever visit to Australia. “Yes I think it could well be the last time,” he says, seriously, before adding, “because I’m now 78 years old (laughs). I’m not sure how long I’m going to be going all over the place and so yeah, I think it probably is.”
But despite the upcoming tour registering as his last possible tour Down Under, Pilgrem says Australia is one of his favourite places to tour. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad tour over there,” he says. “Even the last couple of times where they were saying, ‘Oh breaks is suffering, etc.’, I had a lot of great feedback where people were really pleased to hear it. Australia and Spain have been the best places in the world really for breaks.”
BY ANNABEL MACLEAN
Rennie Pilgrem plays the Royal Melbourne Hotel on Friday July 20.