Only the third release a teenage Garcia made in the studio, to tell the story of ‘A London Thing’ we have to rewind to the early ‘90s, when he got his earliest exposure to electronic music by going to drum & bass raves like Orange at Camden Palace and those held at Lazerdrome in Peckham. Born in Tooting and growing up in Wimbledon, Garcia also used any spare money he had at the time to buy records from shops around London. By the mid ’90s, he had decided — along with a friend (whose dad “had a bit of money”) — to look into opening a record shop himself. The pair took over the site of a failing record shop on Wimbledon Broadway in West London, and opened Ruff Trax.
Due to cost, the pair couldn’t initially afford to bring in US imports, so they focused on UK music coming through from labels like Cleveland City Records and Nice ‘N’ Ripe, and artists like Grant Nelson and Simon Firmin under their 24 Hour Experience alias, who were all influenced by the more soulful US garage of the time. “I got hooked on that sound,” Garcia enthuses, when he meets DJ Mag at the bar at his hotel during Amsterdam Dance Event in October. “Because [Ruff Trax] was my source, I was playing this hard-edged UK house that came before [UK] garage.”
Garcia started going to clubs like Club UK in Wandsworth and Garage City at Satellite Club — which would eventually become The Colosseum, home to legendary UK garage night Twice As Nice. “There was no such thing as UK garage then,” he continues. “Garage was US garage... It was really vocal, gospel almost, and very, very soulful. The stuff I was gravitating towards in the shop was a bit more dubby, and it would be the B-side of big gospel records that would have a little chopped-up vocal. But you’d speed them up, because they naturally sounded better [that way].”
Through the record shop, Garcia met a number of people who turned out to be crucial to his journey as an artist. They included Tony Lawrence, AKA DJ Damage, a producer who also worked for a distributor called Alphamagic, and Gavin Henry, who worked as G Smoove, and as one half of Baffled with an engineer called Nathan Lockett. Describing himself as “a bit of a Del Boy”, Garcia decided he wanted to start a record label to stock in the shop.
“G [Smoove] comes in one day, and plays me this demo of a track [which became] ‘Going On’ — one of Baffled’s biggest records,” he explains. “It’s a cult classic.” In love with the music they were making, Garcia asked to set up a meeting with him and Lockett to discuss starting a label with a release from the pair. “Because I’m being a businessman,” he laughs, “I go to the studio and I meet Nathan [Lockett], who’s a bit older than me, and a lot wiser in terms of this music industry thing. And he was just like, ‘Look, mate, you haven’t got enough money to do what you’re asking for’.”
Lockett suggested that he should book some studio time to make some of his own music instead. “My original idea wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t going to be the next Richard Branson,” Garcia laughs. So he booked some studio time. The result of that first three-day session would become his first release, ‘Into The Darkness/Feelings’ on Buzz Bomb. When he got the DAT tape back he played it to Lawrence. “Next thing, they sign it, I get a cheque for £300 and I’m like, ‘Wow. I’m a producer’,” he laughs. “You couldn’t make it up.”
Ruff Trax would eventually close due to complications with the landlord, but Garcia was hooked on working in the studio. His next release, which would also come out on Buzz Bomb, was ‘Music Takes You’. A dubby garage cut, it gained the attention of Twice As Nice resident DJ Spoony, as well as garnering press coverage. In the studio sessions during that time, Garcia also recorded an intro track for his DJ sets, inspired by that of Karl ‘Tuff Enuff’ Brown — one of two DJs he describes as his “heroes” alongside Matt ‘Jam’ Lamont. “When I heard it, I was like, ‘Wow, this guy’s got a tune with his name in? What!’ I had some residencies I was playing by this time, so I wanted a tune. ‘A London Thing’ started life as a dubplate, and the original version has my name all over it: ‘DJ Scott Garcia’.”