In this essay, I will be looking at one of the producers who has greatly influenced my work and has a successful career spanning over 20 years in multiple genres; Ben Pettit AKA DJ Zinc. When I first heard “Super Sharp Shooter” in 1995, which came out on DJ Hypes Ganja Records and his Dope Skillz alias for Six Million Ways; I was astounded as this track seemed to elevate the “jump up” sound of DnB and Jungle to a higher level.
At a time when Jungle was thriving these tracks were not pure Jungle in my opinion, due to the fact they heavily sampled Hip Hop and Funk tracks with Super Sharp Shooter using Fred Wesley, Method Man, LL Cool Jay, James brown, Tommy Roe and The Winston’s classic Amen Brother. Naturally, by using those types of rare grooves and Hip Hop samples they had more of a Hip Hop “feel” to them in contrast to the true Ragga jungle, which leaned more heavily towards Reggae roots.
The productions were exceptional for the mid 90’s and still cut through today standing the test of time. I was also familiar with the earlier stuff Zinc had done with Swift in and around 1993 on Bizzy Bs “Brain Progression” imprint. I loved the way Zinc edited up the drums; slicing, chopping and rearranging old-school break beats, which were synonymous at the time. It was this kind of production work that set him out from the rest. I try to emulate this style of editing and have incorporated it into my own productions.
I also focus strongly on drum edits, as they can take something fairly basic and create complex and interesting patterns. It is important to note that when Zinc was chopping up these loops and re-arranging them in 1995, it was more challenging than me chopping them up in Ableton Live, due to the technology available to him at the time. Zinc used OctaMED to make Super Sharp Shooter, which was a music-tracking program that ran on the Commodore Amigas’ and was first released in 1989. It was nowhere near as powerful as the tools we have today.
I believe due to these software limitations enforced on him, his approach to working helped him get the best out of what he was doing. Zinc still has quite a basic sound when you really listen, but his music oozes with style and his bass line patterns flow. I personally love the warp bass sounds he was using in tracks like Super Sharp Shooter; these can be duplicated by using square waves with fairly long attack times, quick releases, a low-pass filter with a low cut-off and medium res. This kind of bass could also be recreated by sampling bass sounds.
An example would be found in Derek Mays “Nude Photo” and reversing that. A popular synth of the time was the Yamaha DX series, which Derek was known to have used. Derek is another iconic producer who pioneered Detroit Techno a few years prior to DnB and Jungle. I still use that bass sound as a basis in some of my work these days. Zinc wasn’t the first to use the Warp Bass line; which can be credited to Dead Dread’s “Dread Bass” a track that came out on Moving Shadow in 1994 (another influential track for me).
Zinc says he grew up around music in his house “I’d always been into music,” he quoted. “My brother is a drummer and music was always around the house” He also cites Acid House as another one of his major influences whilst going to raves and buying vinyl; which is something I have done, so it was a background I could relate to. Furthermore, a considerable influence on his life was pirate radio, which has also been a sizable influence throughout my life and still is today. The pirate stations were a good place to get your music heard and build a name.
In the early to mid 90’s the London pirate scene was a vibrant scene with many stations being one of the only platforms for emerging producers and DJs to showcase their work. At that time, there was no Internet or Social Media to promote yourself, so you had to try to get a show on a pirate station. It was synonymous with attaining the ‘holy grail’ and once you had a show you felt that you had reached the highest echelons, as everybody wanted to play on pirate stations back then.
This was one of the main cultural aspects of the early underground rave scene and a lot grew out of this; many careers were launched from the back of pirate radio with many artists going on to make good careers out of music all starting out on the London Pirates. Zinc did not just have an ability to fuse styles, but also to change genres and make quality tracks in other styles as he proved with his massive track ‘Trek 138” which was originally released in 1999 and is a bouncy break beat piece of music at 138 bpm, previously he had been working at drum & bass jungle tempo, which was around 160 to 170 bpm.
When Trek 138 was initially released it crossed over into the UK Garage 2 step scene and then went on to chart in 2000, this came out on True Playaz a label he had set up with DJ Hype and Pascal. After the Success of Trek 138 Zinc set up his Bingo Beats label in 2000, which is another influential label the first release was Hold On/ Distraction under his “Jammin” alias. I still think Distraction is one of the best break beat tracks to date as its simply rolling.
The A side was “Hold On” which was similar in style to Trek 138 but it was Hold On that gave him the hollow organ bass sound which is familiar in a lot of his work and is the Zinc sound. When he was releasing early Bingo Beats music, he was taking the UKG 2step world by storm with a lot of other artists trying to make similar-sounding tracks; some could say these styles started laying the foundations for the Grime and Dubstep scenes. I would draw influence from tracks like these, as I like the pads, he may use, which still had the old-school DnB feel to them and the hollow organ bass sounds.
The bass sound is mainly a sine, square or triangle wave and it’s those waveforms that give the sound that somewhat roundness, you may subsequently add some ring mod or bit crusher, with some slight Lfo modulation and generally low filter, and res cut offs. I may also layer a 2nd detuned oscillator on top to give it more depth; I would then put a high-pass filter on that sound and lay another sub underneath it. For the old-school Jungle, pad sounds. I might use a pad chord and re-sample it or just sample an old-school Jungle pad and add my own modulation FX, reverb and delay to try to recreate that sound.
Around about the same time as the early Bingo Beats, Zinc also released another big DnB track with DJ Hype Called Casino Royale, which the bass line could be a Korg M1 organ patch, another classic sound that has been used by many and is still used today. Another favourite track from around that time, 2000 was Santos – Camels “DJ Zinc Remix,” I truly like the use of filters in this track. There’s a lot of filter use on the drums and the lead acid line which is something that I like to do.
I notice that his tracks seemed rather central in terms of panning with a selected slight use of panning in various sections throughout the track. Once again, I truly think the overall production on this track is really quite technical with a lot of delicate edits going on. The string sounds like their reversed; you have reversed drum edits, and it’s a tight production from the time. Zinc was way ahead of a lot of producers in terms of technical ability and creating his own unique sound and has continued to release quality music out.
After the 2 step garage era of the early to mid 2000’s, Zinc continued to make DnB then in 2007, Zinc said there was “disenchantment with the scene” and asked his booking agent to stop taking DnB bookings for him. In 2009 I and producing what was termed as Fidget House, which had a UK garage 4×4 feel and groove to the drums with the reappearance of the warp bass line but it had a more overall glitch feel about it. Zinc re appeared in the House scene with what he termed “Crack House” which was a hybrid sound consisting of fidget, break beat and UK Funky with the first release being “Killa Sound” featuring No.
Lay on his Bingo Bass label. This was a warm up track for his forthcoming Crack House EP in 2009 which was a monstrous 10 track EP release which took house music in a different direction, and I could draw influence from this. It had a distinctive UK sound to it as he was mixing up House with a London Ragga feel with my favourite track from the EP being Zinc & Benga featuring Sweetie Irie and a track entitled Number 1 Girl’s, once again this set the standards for this style of House.
Zinc seemed to be back on form with his new style of House and made some great tracks, collaborating with the likes of Dave Spoon (Shadow Child) for Ghost Train afterwards the track that elevated him again was Wile Out which was originally released as an instrumental on the Crack House EP and was entitled Blunt Edge, the Ms Dynamite vocals were added later, and the title was changed to Wile Out. Once more, in typical Zinc style this has that kind of Organ bass sound going on, very simple, but lots of little FX and subtle edits going on.
One thing I have noticed about Zincs work since analysing it is his drums are very central in the mix with bits of percussion slightly panned off with the FX and other sounds taking up the stereo field. Zinc likes to experiment with styles and cross genres, not stick to genres and is a great model to look at for the whole bass music genre as he has spanned across them all breaking down genre restrictions whilst maintain his own unique sound, which is something that I am trying to emulate with my music.