Since DnB’s protoype years in the United Kingdom, New Zealand has walked hand in hand with the genre and in the last 3 years of its existence, the Kiwi nation has delivered influential artists and global superstars on the underground and mainstream side of Drum & Bass.
Bulletproof or fondly known as Jay Bulletproof who started his journey in Drum & Bass when the Neurofunk sound was new and in full flow, sits right on top of the New Zealand Drum & Bass food chain as one of the most influential artists to have graced the genre from the Aotearoa.
An envious catalogue that weaves through imprints like Renegade Hardware, Cirtus Recordings, and New Zealand’s legendary label Cyanide Recordings which dished out majority of his releases, Bulletproof took the darker realms of Drum & Bass to a new level with his futuristic touch and changed New Zealand’s perspective towards Neurofunk.
For the rich history that New Zealand shares with Drum & Bass which spans more than two decades, Bulletproof was keen to document his nation’s history with the genre. Powered by Ticket Fairy and now in its second season, ‘The History of New Zealand Drum & Bass Podcast’ dives deep into the Kiwi DnB history files via conversations with the Producers, DJ’s, MC’s & promoters who laid the foundations for Drum & Bass in New Zealand, through conversations with the current era of New Zealand Drum & Bass flag bearers.
The first season has already seen the likes of DBridge, Presha, Tiki Taane, Concord Dawn, State Of Mind, MC Tali, Stamina MC, Camo MC, Trei, and Bulletproof himself. We were keen to know his thoughts on his view of the modern Neurofunk sound, his podcast, his Dubstep exploits and lots more. Here is what he had to say:
You were a part of the collective Drum & Bass scene when the Neurofunk sound was in full flow. How do you think the sound has progressed since then?
Bulletproof: To put it in a nutshell, I think drum and bass is experiencing an explosion in popularity that would be hard to match at any other time over the past 25+ years. There’s a whole generation of influential DJ’s and Producers who have grown up in the social media era, which has become a huge part of any artists career these days. Having that access to your favourite artists, new music and their content has changed the way the industry works and its amazing to see.
First act from New Zealand to be signed by a UK Drum & Bass label. How was the feeling back then?
Bulletproof: It was amazing. We’d set ourselves the goal of getting signed to a UK label so when it finally happened It kind of triggered a whole chain of events that would eventually lead us all over the world and representing New Zealand music on the global stage, which I’m extremely grateful for.
We’ve enjoyed every episode of The History of New Zealand Drum & Bass Podcast. How did it come to life?
Bulletproof: Thanks! The History of New Zealand Drum & Bass concept which looked back on Kiwi DnB from 95 to 2020 was originally pitched as a visual documentary in 2020, but obviously finding the funding during those times was difficult and the idea was put on hold. In August 2021 when New Zealand went into lockdown, all my work dried up pretty much overnight and I found myself with a bunch of time on my hands so I decided to adapt the documentary concept into a podcast series and start the research phase. The way the series has been received is incredible and we made the top 5 music podcasts in NZ &Australia on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. It’s was also an awesome way to catch up with friends during a pretty strange time in NZ music.
A tune with Optiv in the early 2000s. Any memories that you would like to share while working on the tune with him?
Bulletproof: Ed Optiv was hugely influential in our early career and was responsible for the link up with Focus and Perspective recordings. Back then we were throwing nation wide tours for our Cyanide Recordings Label, and Cause4Concern were one of the first acts we brought to Aotearoa. Optiv got an ear infection and couldn’t fly anywhere so stayed with myself and Evan from Concord Dawn until his ear was better. We all learned so much from him when he was out here and everyone’s sound went up a level. Ed became a good friend and he’s sorely missed.
A Dubstep album in your illustrious catalogue. How and when did that come about?
Bulletproof: In 2008 I toured the USA and my good friend Mayhem showed me a bunch of 140 cuts he’d been working on and I was instantly like bro!…this is fire. When I came back to New Zealand I started dabbling with 140 and came up with a bunch of tracks that sounded like my stuff, but slower in tempo, and had some awesome feedback from some UK. Heads so included them on my Dark Times – Desperate Measures album.
By 2010 I had an albums worth of 140 / Dubstep so decided to release an album exclusively in New Zealand, which ended up winning our version of a Grammy for Best Electronic Album and the New Zealand Music Awards. Not long after I was signed for a 3 album deal to EMI records and ended up grabbing a gold selling record and touring pretty much all the time. It was an amazing ride and that tempo really allowed me to experiment with different musical styles and techniques, some of which I’m implementing in my D&B productions today.
What can we expect from the season 2 of The History of New Zealand Drum & Bass Podcast?
Bulletproof: Covid really restricted my ability to record all the people I wanted in Season One, so now that New Zealand is in lower alert levels, and with the support of The Ticket Fairy, I can get around the country and track down the heads who were there at the very inception of the four major scenes in New Zealand in the 90’s. So for that reason, Season Two zooms in specifically on the era spanning 1995 to 2005 and the upcoming heads have seriously deep knowledge of their respective scenes. We’re also transported back to the same era in London and given an exclusive insight into the lives of a couple of true pioneers of the scene and hear their opinions of New Zealand back in those days, and draw comparisons to the current era. It’s gonna’ be a wild ride.