“I recently came to the realization that I've been DJing half of my life,” recalls Jimi Needles – world-class DJ, producer and drummer for knock-out soul band Ephemerals – talking to me from home, shortly before leaving on a well-deserved holiday. “I had my CD decks first when I was 14. I bought really cheap CD decks and hated it, then got vinyl decks when I was 15 and restarted again. Not many people did that back then. You didn't touch CDs like that. It was all vinyl and then suddenly it was all CDs and I did the opposite. I've been DJing full-time about half of my DJing life now. And only about the last four have been giving a real shit.” Four years is probably about the length of time that Needles has been on the radar of an ever-growing contingent of bassheads here on the Canadian west coast. His Needlewurk mixes are some of the most reliable I've found, able to keep all the members of the crew happy – no matter where they lay on the spectrum of bass music enjoyment. The good homie combines his incredible arsenal of sounds, tempos and feelings, with great taste in music and a penchant for juggling the best parts from an unyielding scope of genres.
It's been a year and half since the last time I've talked to Needles - a fruitful time that has seen him touring relentlessly on his own and as the drummer for Ephemerals, the creation of the Jimi Needles Band and the beginning of the final stretch toward his long-awaited debut album. “I think I've become a worse DJ and a better producer since we last talked," laughs Needles. "I've sacrificed a bit of the DJing. In the past 18 months I've really collected a bunch of sounds that I will use for all of my tracks. Every producer has their signature thing, like Stickybuds has his signature bass. 'Oh yeah, that's a Stickybuds tune there.' Featurecast has got his signature boom-bap-shuffle-drums. You can't miss those. A. Skillz has own kits and stuff. I've done a lot of tracks that share the same synth,” says Needles. “The whole album is going to speak to that synth. It'll be the “Jimi Needles Sound.” Really moving away from bootleg stuff on the album to more original stuff. It's exciting. I've really learned to create space in tracks. When I was just bootlegging I would just go, “Let's just feature loads of stuff!” Never give it a breather. You kind of learn to add those spaces in.” And now, a delicious vision of things to come...The album, this is a preview of an upcoming album track.
While the undertaking of an all original album is huge milestone, it's also a ridiculously huge undertaking that requires time – bottomless lakes of time. Luckily instead of us making us wait in silence for the impending album, Needles has been busy with mixes, singles and other releases like his Jungle Strikes (Vol. 15), released last May. Needles has been an invaluable tool in my quest to figure out drum 'n' bass and the two tracks on the release have gone a long way in moving that process along. Bright, happy and uplifting, Needles has reworked some legit classic sounds here and has created a couple of indispensable summer bangers. I'll let the man himself break this shit down...(And go pick them shits up off BeatPort!)
“I always think about Jungle Strikes like, 'How can I combine three or four elements and make it work.' For instance, the middle eight on “No Roller” has got the “Uptown Funk” riff. The way I like to produce drum 'n' bass is once there's a drop, it goes on for eight loops, it needs to change up, so I throw in some more familiarity with that. That's the end of “Uptown Funk,” 'Uptown funk you up!' Had to slow it down a bit, but it fit perfectly. The horn part, from an old Rufus Thomas funk track - it was used in a drum 'n' bass tune that was released in the mid 90s called “Walk This Land” by E-Z Rollers. I nabbed that horn sample and so the bootleg is called “No Roller.”
The other track on the release is the “'93 'Til Infinity” remix. The first time you hear that sample, you hear it and think 'What is this?!' The first time I heard it was in was a live mix, a 4-deck show. This was just when Limewire was really big. I'd type in 'turntabilsm' and anything that came up, I'd download it. It was DJ Radar & Z-Trip “Live at the Future Primitive.” Z-Trip did a mix of the instrumental of “'93 'Til Infinity” and then drop Erik B. & Rakim - “I Know You Got Soul” on top of it. It blew my mind. The mix is out there. You can probably find it on YouTube. [He's right. You can.] A lot of the complaints with that song is the way it was mixed. If you hear it in a club environment you can hardly hear the vocals. They [Souls of Mischief] were like, 'We have no money to get it professionally mixed, so let's just do it ourselves.' What happened is...it sounded shit. Only just recently the acapella become available online, it used to just the be instrumental. I thought, “I'd like to electrify it a bit more and bring it up into the realms of DnB. Let's give it a shout and a straight up remix.” I could be legally fucked, but no one's gonna come lookin, right?