JT The Goon is a legend and U.O.E.N.O it. From his days storming East London Pirate Radio as a teenager to his production for Grime’ legendary Slew Dem Crew, JT didn’t just have a front row seat for the foundation of UK street culture, he played an active, if oft unappreciated role. Now, after a short absense, he’s staging a return to music thanks to support from Boxed DJs Slackk and OilGang, and a receptive audience ready to embrace instrumental Grime on its own terms. In this exclusive interview, his first ever, we talk past, present and future with JT the Goon. – Son Raw
How did it all start for you? What part of London are you from?
I’m from East London, over in Stratford. My first love was Jungle back in 93-94. It was all Pirate Radio, this station called Weekend Rush, which is now Déjà vu, I think, Kool FM…just all of the old classic stations listening to people like Brockie. I was staying up on a Sunday night when I should have been getting ready for school the next day, recording it on cassette so we could play it in school!
Were your mates into it?
Definitely, music was really kicking off. The whole underground pirate thing was just massive around that sort of time so we were all just jumping on it. As we started getting older, Jungle sort of died off a bit and we started to come of age where we could actually get into clubs and there was a bit more of a Garage vibe and it just kicked off from there. I started buying records with a couple of my friends, people like [fellow Slew Dem producer] Waifer. We’d go record shopping, buy a load of Garage and since I had a set of Technics in my house, we just used to mix every day, all day.
How’d you transition to actually making tunes? What was the first music that made you go “yeah, that’s something I need to be involved in?
Well it’s funny because it sort of happened by accident really. I used to play computer games in my spare time and there was a game called Music 2000. It was just building your own simple blocks on the Playstation 1. I used to sit in my house and just do that and I loved it! After doing that for a few years, I decided I wanted to go in, and I needed a PC.
I think Skream used to use that back in the day as well.
Music 2000 and MTV Music Generator! They were classics! Me and Waifer used to sit and do stuff on it. We used to have a little plug in mic to record samples, just to give our tunes a bit of an edge. We even used to take them down to [Legendary London Cutting Studio] The Music House and press them onto records. This was around 2001-2002.
You guys actually pressed them to dubs straight from the playstation??
We were pressing Playstation tunes to dubs! And going to clubs, we were the only guys with dubs at that time!
That’s unbelievable! So you and Waifer were the foundation of Slew Dem on the production side. How did that crew come together?
Me and Waifer sort of knew each other locally because we both lived in East London. There was a whole bunch of us. I grew up with [Slew Dem MC] Chronik being that he was a neighbor of mine and I knew him as long as I lived in that area. It was just a natural progression, we used to do the whole DJing thing and they used to spit over Garage when we messed in our bedrooms and it was just a natural progression from there.
From DJing and being in that situation with a bunch of mates and having a crew. How did you get to radio?
That was just basically growing in East London and knowing everybody. Everybody knew everybody involved in music. There was Pay as U Go Crew, Mo Fire Crew, Roll Deep was just emerging, So Solid Crew had been about for ages. When we saw So Solid doing it, we aspired to that. [Slew Dem DJ] Matty D was DJing and he got a few radio shows and he was in Slew Dem so it was only right that we’d get on.
What stations were you hitting up?
Any and every station! To be honest we would go up to radio unannounced sometimes. That’s how it was back then, you just turn up and start playing!
Is there a crazy show that stands out from those days?
A Christmas show from back in the day. I actually couldn’t make it but I had the radio locked on with my family having a party in my house while the rest of Slew Dem was tearing it a new one! I might have it on a minidisc. It was like a boxing day. It must be online somewhere. I think if you type Matty D, Slew Dem, boxing day it’ll come up.
Did any of the Slew Dem production ever get pressed up?
Quite a few bits. Waifer and the other guys were more into that. I had a kid by that time and I was doing full time work so it was really hard for me to squeeze in any studio time. I made a really big tune around that time called The Gunman Riddim and it just came out of nowhere. Pretty much every Grime MC in the game came to the studio and spat over it so there was about 20 versions of this track floating around, getting played on every station. It was sick!
Massive. You said other guys, was Spooky involved at that point?
At the time, there was Slew Dem and then there was the Slew Dem youngers. There were different branches. There was Slew Dem Mafia with Rage and Lexman and Top Dollar, and then there was the youngers with Spooky, Shorty Smalls, Kraze and the rest of them.
I didn’t realize how deep you rolled.
It was a takeover! By that time there was nobody doing what we was doing at that time. We were every dominating everything.
Is there any chance that those old things will ever see the light of day as a repress?
There’s probably a chance. The future’s the future, who knows what it holds? But as it stands, I have no personal plans, I’m trying to branch out to do my solo stuff as JT.
Let’s talk about that. So you mentioned you had a family situation and stepped back. What’s making you branch out to do your own thing now? How did it come together?
Basically, as you get older, you start taking things a little bit more seriously cause music is still fun to me. It still is. I never thought to myself “I wanna make any money out of music and that’s why I’m going to pursue it”. It’s a hobby that I love to do and that I would do regardless. Thanks to things like Soundcloud and stuff like that, I could get my music out there, and have people respond to it and they’d ask if I was “that guy from Slew Dem.” I’d get a lot of merit off of that since I’m still affiliated with them, if you like. It just made me up the levels, to show people that I’m a producer in my own right.
What was the first step in that return? I heard the BassPower EP quite recently, was that your first step back in?
There was one before that, it was called “The Headshot EP”, it was pretty simple to be honest. It was just a little bit before I went back in to work on my sound. I’d been listening to other people’s music and Dubstep was really big at the time and the quality of Dubstep was so much different than the quality of Grime. The sound was just so much clearer and the mixdowns were crisp. The whole technical side was down, I needed to spend a lot of time learning – to tweak and EQ and make things sound better than they originally sounded. I sort of made a few mistakes on the Headshot EP but I put it out anyway and got a good little response, then I put out the Basspower EP which got a better response and from there, Slackk and Oil Gang caught up with me on Twitter, we had a little discussion and the rest is history. They liked my music, started playing it and it snowballed.
That’s really who I heard your music through, Slackk. Now Oil Gang is putting out your new EP – Twin Warriors. How did that come about?
He’s always been a massive fan of Grime and he was a massive fan of Slew Dem and he knew about the Gunman tune I made in 06-07 or whatever it was. He said he loved that tune so much and all the stuff I’d done and asked if I had any new music. I sent him a couple of tunes and he said he really liked them. Twin Warriors was one of the first tunes I sent him. It’s sort of a remix of an old Jammer tune, Chinaman.
For sure, on that Sinogrime tip. That’s one of the things I like about both tunes, they’re so melodic. They stand out.
There’s so many new producers with hype levels. There’s so many people that I’ve met from last year alone, from being on Twitter. Meeting producers. Not the typical big producers, The Teddy’s The Preditah’s that everybody knows every song they made. People like Inkke, Milktray, Slackk, Shriekin Specialist. They’re all brilliant producers that not many people knew about this time last year! Everybody’s making this different sound. It’s like a mature sound.
Those are all really young people coming up. It’s interesting that you mentioned Dubstep which overshadowed Grime a few years ago, but Grime seems to have learned from that genre’s mistakes.
You can do anything around that tempo. You can make Dubstep track be Grime. You can make a really R&B type Grime. Sino Grime. Housey Grime, Funky Grime…you can squeeze so much into it whereas other genres are just that…other genres. That’s the good thing right now.
So there’s been rumors of an album in work. What can we expect from that?
12 tracks of fire. Double LP possibly.
And that’s the headline for this interview. 12 tracks of fire. Any shouts?
I want to shout out all of The Boxed guys – Mr. Mitch, Logos, Slackk and Oil Gang. These guys have reinvented Grime for me in the sense that there’s somewhere where we can go, as adults now, you know, who have kids. We don’t want to go to them noisy places where everybody’s fighting for the mic and there’s a million reloads. We want to go somewhere where we can vibe and chill, where it’s instrumental, no noise and these guys have done a brilliant job at actually pulling that off. I didn’t think it was possible! I didn’t think there would be people feeling the music like that until I went to Boxed.
Now I’m trying to jump back on the DJing thing as well so I can push my music. This year should be fun. I’ve got an EP with Murlo coming out as well on Oil Gang and I also have an awesome Rabit remix of Twin Warriors on my LP. I’ll be working with Mumdance, Novelist, Dullahbeatz. There’s a whole lot of work to be done this year.
Twin Warriors is out on wax February 28th, March 7th on Digital. Check out this OilGang mix with plenty of forthcoming JT the Goon material